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IN EULOGY FOR THE HONORABLE REVEREND CLEMENTA PINCKNEY - History


June 26, 2015

REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

IN EULOGY FOR THE HONORABLE REVEREND CLEMENTA PINCKNEY

College of Charleston

Charleston, South Carolina

2:49 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Giving all praise and honor to God. (Applause.)

The Bible calls us to hope. To persevere, and have faith in things not seen.

“They were still living by faith when they died,” Scripture tells us. “They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on Earth.”

We are here today to remember a man of God who lived by faith. A man who believed in things not seen. A man who believed there were better days ahead, off in the distance. A man of service who persevered, knowing full well he would not receive all those things he was promised, because he believed his efforts would deliver a better life for those who followed.

To Jennifer, his beloved wife; to Eliana and Malana, his beautiful, wonderful daughters; to the Mother Emanuel family and the people of Charleston, the people of South Carolina.

I cannot claim to have the good fortune to know Reverend Pinckney well. But I did have the pleasure of knowing him and meeting him here in South Carolina, back when we were both a little bit younger. (Laughter.) Back when I didn’t have visible grey hair. (Laughter.) The first thing I noticed was his graciousness, his smile, his reassuring baritone, his deceptive sense of humor -- all qualities that helped him wear so effortlessly a heavy burden of expectation.

Friends of his remarked this week that when Clementa Pinckney entered a room, it was like the future arrived; that even from a young age, folks knew he was special. Anointed. He was the progeny of a long line of the faithful -- a family of preachers who spread God’s word, a family of protesters who sowed change to expand voting rights and desegregate the South. Clem heard their instruction, and he did not forsake their teaching.

He was in the pulpit by 13, pastor by 18, public servant by 23. He did not exhibit any of the cockiness of youth, nor youth’s insecurities; instead, he set an example worthy of his position, wise beyond his years, in his speech, in his conduct, in his love, faith, and purity.

As a senator, he represented a sprawling swath of the Lowcountry, a place that has long been one of the most neglected in America. A place still wracked by poverty and inadequate schools; a place where children can still go hungry and the sick can go without treatment. A place that needed somebody like Clem. (Applause.)

His position in the minority party meant the odds of winning more resources for his constituents were often long. His calls for greater equity were too often unheeded, the votes he cast were sometimes lonely. But he never gave up. He stayed true to his convictions. He would not grow discouraged. After a full day at the capitol, he’d climb into his car and head to the church to draw sustenance from his family, from his ministry, from the community that loved and needed him. There he would fortify his faith, and imagine what might be.

Reverend Pinckney embodied a politics that was neither mean, nor small. He conducted himself quietly, and kindly, and diligently. He encouraged progress not by pushing his ideas alone, but by seeking out your ideas, partnering with you to make things happen. He was full of empathy and fellow feeling, able to walk in somebody else’s shoes and see through their eyes. No wonder one of his senate colleagues remembered Senator Pinckney as “the most gentle of the 46 of us -- the best of the 46 of us.”

Clem was often asked why he chose to be a pastor and a public servant. But the person who asked probably didn’t know the history of the AME church. (Applause.) As our brothers and sisters in the AME church know, we don't make those distinctions. “Our calling,” Clem once said, “is not just within the walls of the congregation, but…the life and community in which our congregation resides.” (Applause.)

He embodied the idea that our Christian faith demands deeds and not just words; that the “sweet hour of prayer” actually lasts the whole week long -- (applause) -- that to put our faith in action is more than individual salvation, it's about our collective salvation; that to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and house the homeless is not just a call for isolated charity but the imperative of a just society.

What a good man. Sometimes I think that's the best thing to hope for when you're eulogized -- after all the words and recitations and resumes are read, to just say someone was a good man. (Applause.)

You don’t have to be of high station to be a good man. Preacher by 13. Pastor by 18. Public servant by 23. What a life Clementa Pinckney lived. What an example he set. What a model for his faith. And then to lose him at 41 -- slain in his sanctuary with eight wonderful members of his flock, each at different stages in life but bound together by a common commitment to God.

Cynthia Hurd. Susie Jackson. Ethel Lance. DePayne Middleton-Doctor. Tywanza Sanders. Daniel L. Simmons. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton. Myra Thompson. Good people. Decent people. God-fearing people. (Applause.) People so full of life and so full of kindness. People who ran the race, who persevered. People of great faith.

To the families of the fallen, the nation shares in your grief. Our pain cuts that much deeper because it happened in a church. The church is and always has been the center of African-American life -- (applause) -- a place to call our own in a too often hostile world, a sanctuary from so many hardships.

Over the course of centuries, black churches served as “hush harbors” where slaves could worship in safety; praise houses where their free descendants could gather and shout hallelujah -- (applause) -- rest stops for the weary along the Underground Railroad; bunkers for the foot soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement. They have been, and continue to be, community centers where we organize for jobs and justice; places of scholarship and network; places where children are loved and fed and kept out of harm’s way, and told that they are beautiful and smart -- (applause) -- and taught that they matter. (Applause.) That’s what happens in church.

That’s what the black church means. Our beating heart. The place where our dignity as a people is inviolate. When there’s no better example of this tradition than Mother Emanuel -- (applause) -- a church built by blacks seeking liberty, burned to the ground because its founder sought to end slavery, only to rise up again, a Phoenix from these ashes. (Applause.)

When there were laws banning all-black church gatherings, services happened here anyway, in defiance of unjust laws. When there was a righteous movement to dismantle Jim Crow, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached from its pulpit, and marches began from its steps. A sacred place, this church. Not just for blacks, not just for Christians, but for every American who cares about the steady expansion -- (applause) -- of human rights and human dignity in this country; a foundation stone for liberty and justice for all. That’s what the church meant. (Applause.)

We do not know whether the killer of Reverend Pinckney and eight others knew all of this history. But he surely sensed the meaning of his violent act. It was an act that drew on a long history of bombs and arson and shots fired at churches, not random, but as a means of control, a way to terrorize and oppress. (Applause.) An act that he imagined would incite fear and recrimination; violence and suspicion. An act that he presumed would deepen divisions that trace back to our nation’s original sin.

Oh, but God works in mysterious ways. (Applause.) God has different ideas. (Applause.)

He didn’t know he was being used by God. (Applause.) Blinded by hatred, the alleged killer could not see the grace surrounding Reverend Pinckney and that Bible study group -- the light of love that shone as they opened the church doors and invited a stranger to join in their prayer circle. The alleged killer could have never anticipated the way the families of the fallen would respond when they saw him in court -- in the midst of unspeakable grief, with words of forgiveness. He couldn’t imagine that. (Applause.)

The alleged killer could not imagine how the city of Charleston, under the good and wise leadership of Mayor Riley -- (applause) -- how the state of South Carolina, how the United States of America would respond -- not merely with revulsion at his evil act, but with big-hearted generosity and, more importantly, with a thoughtful introspection and self-examination that we so rarely see in public life.

Blinded by hatred, he failed to comprehend what Reverend Pinckney so well understood -- the power of God’s grace. (Applause.)

This whole week, I’ve been reflecting on this idea of grace. (Applause.) The grace of the families who lost loved ones. The grace that Reverend Pinckney would preach about in his sermons. The grace described in one of my favorite hymnals -- the one we all know: Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. (Applause.) I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind but now I see. (Applause.)

According to the Christian tradition, grace is not earned. Grace is not merited. It’s not something we deserve. Rather, grace is the free and benevolent favor of God -- (applause) -- as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. Grace.

As a nation, out of this terrible tragedy, God has visited grace upon us, for he has allowed us to see where we’ve been blind. (Applause.) He has given us the chance, where we’ve been lost, to find our best selves. (Applause.) We may not have earned it, this grace, with our rancor and complacency, and short-sightedness and fear of each other -- but we got it all the same. He gave it to us anyway. He’s once more given us grace. But it is up to us now to make the most of it, to receive it with gratitude, and to prove ourselves worthy of this gift.

For too long, we were blind to the pain that the Confederate flag stirred in too many of our citizens. (Applause.) It’s true, a flag did not cause these murders. But as people from all walks of life, Republicans and Democrats, now acknowledge -- including Governor Haley, whose recent eloquence on the subject is worthy of praise -- (applause) -- as we all have to acknowledge, the flag has always represented more than just ancestral pride. (Applause.) For many, black and white, that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation. We see that now.

Removing the flag from this state’s capitol would not be an act of political correctness; it would not be an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers. It would simply be an acknowledgment that the cause for which they fought -- the cause of slavery -- was wrong -- (applause) -- the imposition of Jim Crow after the Civil War, the resistance to civil rights for all people was wrong. (Applause.) It would be one step in an honest accounting of America’s history; a modest but meaningful balm for so many unhealed wounds. It would be an expression of the amazing changes that have transformed this state and this country for the better, because of the work of so many people of goodwill, people of all races striving to form a more perfect union. By taking down that flag, we express God’s grace. (Applause.)

But I don't think God wants us to stop there. (Applause.) For too long, we’ve been blind to the way past injustices continue to shape the present. Perhaps we see that now. Perhaps this tragedy causes us to ask some tough questions about how we can permit so many of our children to languish in poverty, or attend dilapidated schools, or grow up without prospects for a job or for a career. (Applause.)

Perhaps it causes us to examine what we’re doing to cause some of our children to hate. (Applause.) Perhaps it softens hearts towards those lost young men, tens and tens of thousands caught up in the criminal justice system -- (applause) -- and leads us to make sure that that system is not infected with bias; that we embrace changes in how we train and equip our police so that the bonds of trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve make us all safer and more secure. (Applause.)

Maybe we now realize the way racial bias can infect us even when we don't realize it, so that we're guarding against not just racial slurs, but we're also guarding against the subtle impulse to call Johnny back for a job interview but not Jamal. (Applause.) So that we search our hearts when we consider laws to make it harder for some of our fellow citizens to vote. (Applause.) By recognizing our common humanity by treating every child as important, regardless of the color of their skin or the station into which they were born, and to do what’s necessary to make opportunity real for every American -- by doing that, we express God’s grace. (Applause.)

For too long --

AUDIENCE: For too long!

THE PRESIDENT: For too long, we’ve been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts upon this nation. (Applause.) Sporadically, our eyes are open: When eight of our brothers and sisters are cut down in a church basement, 12 in a movie theater, 26 in an elementary school. But I hope we also see the 30 precious lives cut short by gun violence in this country every single day; the countless more whose lives are forever changed -- the survivors crippled, the children traumatized and fearful every day as they walk to school, the husband who will never feel his wife’s warm touch, the entire communities whose grief overflows every time they have to watch what happened to them happen to some other place.

The vast majority of Americans -- the majority of gun owners -- want to do something about this. We see that now. (Applause.) And I'm convinced that by acknowledging the pain and loss of others, even as we respect the traditions and ways of life that make up this beloved country -- by making the moral choice to change, we express God’s grace. (Applause.)

We don’t earn grace. We're all sinners. We don't deserve it. (Applause.) But God gives it to us anyway. (Applause.) And we choose how to receive it. It's our decision how to honor it.

None of us can or should expect a transformation in race relations overnight. Every time something like this happens, somebody says we have to have a conversation about race. We talk a lot about race. There’s no shortcut. And we don’t need more talk. (Applause.) None of us should believe that a handful of gun safety measures will prevent every tragedy. It will not. People of goodwill will continue to debate the merits of various policies, as our democracy requires -- this is a big, raucous place, America is. And there are good people on both sides of these debates. Whatever solutions we find will necessarily be incomplete.

But it would be a betrayal of everything Reverend Pinckney stood for, I believe, if we allowed ourselves to slip into a comfortable silence again. (Applause.) Once the eulogies have been delivered, once the TV cameras move on, to go back to business as usual -- that’s what we so often do to avoid uncomfortable truths about the prejudice that still infects our society. (Applause.) To settle for symbolic gestures without following up with the hard work of more lasting change -- that’s how we lose our way again.

It would be a refutation of the forgiveness expressed by those families if we merely slipped into old habits, whereby those who disagree with us are not merely wrong but bad; where we shout instead of listen; where we barricade ourselves behind preconceived notions or well-practiced cynicism.

Reverend Pinckney once said, “Across the South, we have a deep appreciation of history -- we haven’t always had a deep appreciation of each other’s history.” (Applause.) What is true in the South is true for America. Clem understood that justice grows out of recognition of ourselves in each other. That my liberty depends on you being free, too. (Applause.) That history can’t be a sword to justify injustice, or a shield against progress, but must be a manual for how to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past -- how to break the cycle. A roadway toward a better world. He knew that the path of grace involves an open mind -- but, more importantly, an open heart.

That’s what I’ve felt this week -- an open heart. That, more than any particular policy or analysis, is what’s called upon right now, I think -- what a friend of mine, the writer Marilyn Robinson, calls “that reservoir of goodness, beyond, and of another kind, that we are able to do each other in the ordinary cause of things.”

That reservoir of goodness. If we can find that grace, anything is possible. (Applause.) If we can tap that grace, everything can change. (Applause.)

Amazing grace. Amazing grace.

(Begins to sing) -- Amazing grace -- (applause) -- how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind but now I see. (Applause.)

Clementa Pinckney found that grace.

Cynthia Hurd found that grace.

Susie Jackson found that grace.

Ethel Lance found that grace.

DePayne Middleton-Doctor found that grace.

Tywanza Sanders found that grace.

Daniel L. Simmons, Sr. found that grace.

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton found that grace.

Myra Thompson found that grace.

Through the example of their lives, they’ve now passed it on to us. May we find ourselves worthy of that precious and extraordinary gift, as long as our lives endure. May grace now lead them home. May God continue to shed His grace on the United States of America. (Applause.)

END 3:28 P.M. EDT


Obama gives searing speech on race in eulogy for Charleston pastor

Wrapping his words in the cloak of a church sermon, deploying the inflections and oratorical rhythms of a pastor, Barack Obama delivered one of his most searing speeches on modern race relations in America at a funeral service in Charleston on Friday.

In the course of eulogising Reverend Clementa Pinckney, the pastor of the Mother Emanuel African American church who was shot dead in his own sanctuary along with eight of his flock last week, Obama addressed several of the most contentious debates that have erupted since the shooting.

He referred to the gun rampage by an avowed white supremacist as an act of terrorism, linking it to America’s long history of racist church bombings and arsons.

He said the shooting was not a random act, “but a means of control, a way to terrorize and oppress”. He said the alleged shooter, who he did not name, had imagined his deed would “incite fear and recrimination, violence and suspicion”, as “an act that he presumed would deepen divisions that trace back to our nation’s original sin”.

In the course of a eulogy in which Obama had the audacity to sing Amazing Grace in front of a rapt audience of 5,500 mostly African Americans in the College of Charleston TD Arena, the president also made a robust case for the tearing down of the Confederate flag. As debate continues to rage over the enduring presence of the old secessionist symbol across much of the deep south, Obama said bluntly that the flag was a “reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation”.

The flag did not cause the murder of nine churchgoers at a Bible-study meeting on 17 June, Obama said. “But as people from all walks of life – Republicans and Democrats – have acknowledged, the flag has always represented more than just ancestral pride.”

He said taking down the flag from the grounds of South Carolina’s state capitol in Columbia “would not be an act of political correctness, it would not be an insult to the valour of Confederate soldiers, it would simply be an acknowledgement that the cause for which they fought – the cause of slavery – was wrong.”

Speaking in front of political leaders from both sides of the partisan divide, including Hillary Clinton and the Republican leader John Boehner, as well as African American household names such as Jesse Jackson and the Reverend Al Sharpton, Obama also called for action to address what he called the “mayhem” of gun violence in America.

He also touched on police brutality towards black communities, endemic poverty in many African American neighbourhoods and Republican attempts to introduce new voting laws that would make it more difficult for people to cast their vote.

“None of us can or should expect a transformation in race relations overnight,” Obama said, adding that whenever a tragedy happened such as the massacre at the Mother Emanuel church in Charleston there were calls for a debate.

“We talk a lot about race,” he said. “There is no short cut, we don’t need more talk. People of goodwill will continue to debate the merit of various policies as our democracy requires. There are good people on both sides of these debates. Whatever solutions we find will be incomplete. But it would be a betrayal of everything Reverend Pinckney stood for if we allow ourselves to slip into a comfortable silence again. To go back to business as usual as we so often do.”

He said that after a week of reflection on the Charleston shooting he had concluded that what was required now was “an open heart. That more than a particular policy or analysis, that’s what I think is needed.”

Then, after what must be one of the longest pauses he has ever held in the middle of a public speech, the president of the United States began to sing Amazing Grace. The arena burst into song alongside him.

Obama first met Pinckney in 2007, during the early stages of his first run to the White House. Pinckney was an early supporter of Obama’s bid for the presidency.

The president said he did not know Pinckney well, but he did a little. He described the pastor as a “man of God who lived by faith … when Clementa Pinckney entered a room it was like the future had arrived.”

Pinckney, 41 when he died, made an impact on those around him from an early age. He was only 13 when he had what he took to be a message from God calling him to preach and by 18 he enjoyed his first appointment as pastor. He was elected to the South Carolina legislature in 1996, aged 23, the youngest African American to hold a seat in the assembly, going on to become a state senator just four years later.

A massive crowd of mourners descended on the College of Charleston well before the official funeral service began. Thousands came in hope of securing a place inside the arena, standing from soon after dawn in a line that ran down three blocks and snaked all the way around the corner.

In the blazing heat, mourners huddled under umbrellas and relied on bottles of water handed out among the crowd.

“We expected a large turnout,” a White House official said. “But this is overwhelming.”

The tone of the funeral service that preceded Obama’s eulogy was one of celebration of Pinckney’s life rather than dwelling on the unconscionable act of racial hatred that ended it.

“Senator Pinckney’s last act was to open his doors to someone he did not know, who did not look like him,” said the Honorable Reverend Joseph Neal, referring to Dylann Roof, the suspected shooter. “So let us not close the doors. Do not let race and politics close the doors that Senator Pinckney opened.”

A succession of speakers from South Carolina’s church as well as political circles remembered Pinckney for his booming voice, his skills as a preacher, and his loyalty as a father, husband and friend.

“Tell the people that Reverend Clementa Pinckney walked the talk,” said Reverend George Flowers. “He was the embodiment of the sermon. He was humble, caring, compassionate, supportive, a man of integrity.”

Only one speaker referred directly to Roof, albeit without using his name. Reverend John Gillison told the crowd: “Someone should have told that young man! He wanted to start a race war, but he came to the wrong place.”

In moving messages to their father published in the official order of service, Pinckney’s two young daughters said their goodbyes. Malana, who hid with her mother Jennifer in a side room in the Mother Emanuel church while her father was being killed along with eight others, wrote in her message:


(2015) President Barack Obama’s Eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney

The Bible calls us to hope, to persevere and have faith in things not seen. They were still living by faith when they died, the scripture tells us.

They did not receive the things promised. They only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.

We are here today to remember a man of God who lived by faith, a man who believed in things not seen, a man who believed there were better days ahead off in the distance, a man of service, who persevered knowing full-well he would not receive all those things he was promised, because he believed his efforts would deliver a better life for those who followed, to Jennifer, his beloved wife, Eliana and Malana, his beautiful, wonderful daughters, to the Mother Emanuel family and the people of Charleston, the people of South Carolina.

I cannot claim to have had the good fortune to know Reverend Pinckney well, but I did have the pleasure of knowing him and meeting him here in South Carolina back when we were both a little bit younger…back when I didn’t have visible gray hair.

The first thing I noticed was his graciousness, his smile, his reassuring baritone, his deceptive sense of humor, all qualities that helped him wear so effortlessly a heavy burden of expectation.

Friends of his remarked this week that when Clementa Pinckney entered a room, it was like the future arrived, that even from a young age, folks knew he was special, anointed. He was the progeny of a long line of the faithful, a family of preachers who spread God’s words, a family of protesters who so changed to expand voting rights and desegregate the South.

Clem heard their instruction, and he did not forsake their teaching. He was in the pulpit by 13, pastor by 18, public servant by 23. He did not exhibit any of the cockiness of youth nor youth’s insecurities. Instead, he set an example worthy of his position, wise beyond his years in his speech, in his conduct, in his love, faith and purity.

As a senator, he represented a sprawling swathe of low country, a place that has long been one of the most neglected in America, a place still racked by poverty and inadequate schools, a place where children can still go hungry and the sick can go without treatment — a place that needed somebody like Clem.

His position in the minority party meant the odds of winning more resources for his constituents were often long. His calls for greater equity were too-often unheeded. The votes he cast were sometimes lonely.

But he never gave up. He stayed true to his convictions. He would not grow discouraged. After a full day at the Capitol, he’d climb into his car and head to the church to draw sustenance from his family, from his ministry, from the community that loved and needed him. There, he would fortify his faith and imagine what might be.

Reverend Pinckney embodied a politics that was neither mean nor small. He conducted himself quietly and kindly and diligently. He encouraged progress not by pushing his ideas alone but by seeking out your ideas, partnering with you to make things happen. He was full of empathy and fellow feeling, able to walk in somebody else’s shoes and see through their eyes.

No wonder one of his Senate colleagues remembered Senator Pinckney as “the most gentle of the 46 of us, the best of the 46 of us.”

Clem was often asked why he chose to be a pastor and a public servant. But the person who asked probably didn’t know the history of AME Church.

As our brothers and sisters in the AME Church, we don’t make those distinctions. “Our calling,” Clem once said, “is not just within the walls of the congregation but the life and community in which our congregation resides.”

He embodied the idea that our Christian faith demands deeds and not just words, that the sweet hour of prayer actually lasts the whole week long, that to put our faith in action is more than just individual salvation, it’s about our collective salvation, that to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and house the homeless is not just a call for isolated charity but the imperative of a just society.

What a good man. Sometimes I think that’s the best thing to hope for when you’re eulogized, after all the words and recitations and resumes are read, to just say somebody was a good man.

You don’t have to be of high distinction to be a good man.

Preacher by 13, pastor by 18, public servant by 23. What a life Clementa Pinckney lived. What an example he set. What a model for his faith.

And then to lose him at 41, slain in his sanctuary with eight wonderful members of his flock, each at different stages in life but bound together by a common commitment to God — Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, DePayne Middleton Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel L. Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Myra Thompson.
Good people. Decent people. God-fearing people.

People so full of life and so full of kindness, people who ran the race, who persevered, people of great faith.

To the families of the fallen, the nation shares in your grief. Our pain cuts that much deeper because it happened in a church.

The church is and always has been the center of African American life…a place to call our own in a too-often hostile world, a sanctuary from so many hardships.

Over the course of centuries, black churches served as hush harbors, where slaves could worship in safety, praise houses, where their free descendants could gather and shout “Hallelujah,” rest stops for the weary along the Underground Railroad, bunkers for the foot soldiers of the civil-rights movement.

They have been and continue to community centers, where we organize for jobs and justice, places of scholarship and network, places where children are loved and fed and kept out of harms way and told that they are beautiful and smart and taught that they matter.

That’s what happens in church. That’s what the black church means — our beating heart, the place where our dignity as a people in inviolate.

There’s no better example of this tradition than Mother Emanuel, a church built by blacks seeking liberty, burned to the ground because its founders sought to end slavery only to rise up again, a phoenix from these ashes.

When there were laws banning all-black church gatherers, services happened here anyway in defiance of unjust laws. When there was a righteous movement to dismantle Jim Crow, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached from its pulpit, and marches began from its steps.

[This is] a sacred place, this church, not just for blacks, not just for Christians but for every American who cares about the steady expansion of human rights and human dignity in this country, a foundation stone for liberty and justice for all.
That’s what the church meant.

We do not know whether the killer of Reverend Pinckney and eight others knew all of this history, but he surely sensed the meaning of his violent act. It was an act that drew on a long history of bombs and arson and shots fired at churches, not random but as a means of control, a way to terrorize and oppress, an act that he imagined would incite fear and recrimination, violence and suspicion, an act that he presumed would deepen divisions that trace back to our nation’s original sin.

Oh, but God works in mysterious ways.

He didn’t know he was being used by God.

Blinded by hatred, the alleged killer would not see the grace surrounding Reverend Pinckney and that Bible study group, the light of love that shown as they opened the church doors and invited a stranger to join in their prayer circle.

The alleged killer could have never anticipated the way the families of the fallen would respond when they saw him in court in the midst of unspeakable grief, with words of forgiveness. He couldn’t imagine that.

The alleged killer could not imagine how the city of Charleston under the good and wise leadership of Mayor Riley, how the state of South Carolina, how the United States of America would respond not merely with revulsion at his evil acts, but with (inaudible) generosity. And more importantly, with a thoughtful introspection and self-examination that we so rarely see in public life. Blinded by hatred, he failed to comprehend what Reverend Pinckney so well understood — the power of God’s grace.

This whole week, I’ve been reflecting on this idea of grace.

The grace of the families who lost loved ones the grace that Reverend Pinckney would preach about in his sermons the grace described in one of my favorite hymnals, the one we all know — Amazing Grace.

How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.

According to the Christian tradition, grace is not earned. Grace is not merited. It’s not something we deserve. Rather, grace is the free and benevolent favor of God.

As manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. Grace — as a nation out of this terrible tragedy, God has visited grace upon us for he has allowed us to see where we’ve been blind.

He’s given us the chance where we’ve been lost to find out best selves. We may not have earned this grace with our rancor and complacency and short-sightedness and fear of each other, but we got it all the same. He gave it to us anyway. He’s once more given us grace.

But it is up to us now to make the most of it, to receive it with gratitude and to prove ourselves worthy of this gift.

For too long, we were blind to the pain that the Confederate Flag stirred into many of our citizens.

It’s true a flag did not cause these murders. But as people from all walks of life, Republicans and Democrats, now acknowledge, including Governor Haley, whose recent eloquence on the subject is worthy of praise as we all have to acknowledge, the flag has always represented more than just ancestral pride.

For many, black and white, that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation.

Removing the flag from this state’s capital would not be an act of political correctness. It would not an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers. It would simply be acknowledgement that the cause for which they fought, the cause of slavery, was wrong.

The imposition of Jim Crow after the Civil War, the resistance to civil rights for all people was wrong.

It would be one step in an honest accounting of America’s history, a modest but meaningful balm for so many unhealed wounds.

It would be an expression of the amazing changes that have transformed this state and this country for the better because of the work of so many people of goodwill, people of all races, striving to form a more perfect union.

By taking down that flag, we express adds grace God’s grace.

But I don’t think God wants us to stop there.

For too long, we’ve been blind to be way past injustices continue to shape the present.

Perhaps we see that now. Perhaps this tragedy causes us to ask some tough questions about how we can permit so many of our children to languish in poverty or attend dilapidated schools or grow up without prospects for a job or for a career.

Perhaps it causes us to examine what we’re doing to cause some of our children to hate.

Perhaps it softens hearts towards those lost young men, tens and tens of thousands caught up in the criminal-justice system and lead us to make sure that that system’s not infected with bias [so that] that we embrace changes in how we train and equip our police so that the bonds of trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve make us all safer and more secure.

Maybe we now realize the way a racial bias can infect us even when we don’t realize it so that we’re guarding against not just racial slurs but we’re also guarding against the subtle impulse to call Johnny back for a job interview but not Jamal so that we search our hearts when we consider laws to make it harder for some of our fellow citizens to vote by recognizing our common humanity, by treating every child as important, regardless of the color of their skin or the station into which they were born and to do what’s necessary to make opportunity real for every American. By doing that, we express God’s grace.

For too long, we’ve been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts upon this nation.

Sporadically, our eyes are open when eight of our brothers and sisters are cut down in a church basement, 12 in a movie theater, 26 in an elementary school. But I hope we also see the 30 precious lives cut short by gun violence in this country every single day and the countless more whose lives are forever changed, the survivors crippled, the children traumatized and fearful every day as they walk to school, the husband who will never feel his wife’s warm touch, the entire communities whose grief overflows every time they have to watch what happened to them happening to some other place.

The vast majority of Americans, the majority of gun owners want to do something about this. We see that now.

And I’m convinced that by acknowledging the pain and loss of others, even as we respect the traditions, ways of life that make up this beloved country, by making the moral choice to change, we express God’s grace.

We don’t earn grace. We’re all sinners. We don’t deserve it.

But God gives it to us anyway.

And we choose how to receive it. It’s our decision how to honor it.

None of us can or should expect a transformation in race relations overnight. Every time something like this happens, somebody says, “We have to have a conversation about race.” We talk a lot about race.

There’s no shortcut. We don’t need more talk.

None of us should believe that a handful of gun safety measures will prevent every tragedy.

It will not. People of good will will continue to debate the merits of various policies as our democracy requires — the big, raucous place, America is. And there are good people on both sides of these debates.

Whatever solutions we find will necessarily be incomplete. But it would be a betrayal of everything Reverend Pinckney stood for, I believe, if we allow ourselves to slip into a comfortable silence again.

Once the eulogies have been delivered, once the TV cameras move on, to go back to business as usual. That’s what we so often do to avoid uncomfortable truths about the prejudice that still infects our society.

To settle for symbolic gestures without following up with the hard work of more lasting change, that’s how we lose our way again. It would be a refutation of the forgiveness expressed by those families if we merely slipped into old habits whereby those who disagree with us are not merely wrong, but bad where we shout instead of listen where we barricade ourselves behind preconceived notions or well-practiced cynicism.

Reverend Pinckney once said, “Across the south, we have a deep appreciation of history. We haven’t always had a deep appreciation of each other’s history.”

What is true in the south is true for America. Clem understood that justice grows out of recognition of ourselves in each other that my liberty depends on you being free, too.

That history can’t be a sword to justify injustice or a shield against progress. It must be a manual for how to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, how to break the cycle, a roadway toward a better world. He knew that the path of grace involves an open mind. But more importantly, an open heart.

That’s what I felt this week — an open heart. That more than any particular policy or analysis is what’s called upon right now, I think. It’s what a friend of mine, the writer Marilyn Robinson, calls “that reservoir of goodness beyond and of another kind, that we are able to do each other in the ordinary cause of things.”

That reservoir of goodness. If we can find that grace, anything is possible.

If we can tap that grace, everything can change. Amazing grace, amazing grace.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind, but now, I see.

Clementa Pinckney found that grace…

… Cynthia Hurd found that grace…

… Susie Jackson found that grace…

… Ethel Lance found that grace…

… DePayne Middleton Doctor found that grace…

… Tywanza Sanders found that grace…

… Daniel L. Simmons, Sr. found that grace…

… Sharonda Coleman-Singleton found that grace…

… Myra Thompson found that grace…

Through the example of their lives. They’ve now passed it onto us. May we find ourselves worthy of that precious and extraordinary gift as long as our lives endure.

May grace now lead them home. May God continue to shed His Grace on the United States of America.


The President&rsquos Eulogy for the Honorable Reverend Clementa Pinckney

Below is text and video of President Obama&rsquos eulogy of the Rev. Clementa Pickney. We welcome your comments and reflections.

*Note: The text is courtesy of whitehouse.gov

Charleston, South Carolina

THE PRESIDENT: Giving all praise and honor to God. (Applause.)

The Bible calls us to hope. To persevere, and have faith in things not seen.

&ldquoThey were still living by faith when they died,&rdquo Scripture tells us. &ldquoThey did not receive the things promised they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on Earth.&rdquo

We are here today to remember a man of God who lived by faith. A man who believed in things not seen. A man who believed there were better days ahead, off in the distance. A man of service who persevered, knowing full well he would not receive all those things he was promised, because he believed his efforts would deliver a better life for those who followed.

To Jennifer, his beloved wife to Eliana and Malana, his beautiful, wonderful daughters to the Mother Emanuel family and the people of Charleston, the people of South Carolina.

I cannot claim to have the good fortune to know Reverend Pinckney well. But I did have the pleasure of knowing him and meeting him here in South Carolina, back when we were both a little bit younger. (Laughter.) Back when I didn&rsquot have visible grey hair. (Laughter.) The first thing I noticed was his graciousness, his smile, his reassuring baritone, his deceptive sense of humor &mdash all qualities that helped him wear so effortlessly a heavy burden of expectation.

Friends of his remarked this week that when Clementa Pinckney entered a room, it was like the future arrived that even from a young age, folks knew he was special. Anointed. He was the progeny of a long line of the faithful &mdash a family of preachers who spread God&rsquos word, a family of protesters who sowed change to expand voting rights and desegregate the South. Clem heard their instruction, and he did not forsake their teaching.

He was in the pulpit by 13, pastor by 18, public servant by 23. He did not exhibit any of the cockiness of youth, nor youth&rsquos insecurities instead, he set an example worthy of his position, wise beyond his years, in his speech, in his conduct, in his love, faith, and purity.

As a senator, he represented a sprawling swath of the Lowcountry, a place that has long been one of the most neglected in America. A place still wracked by poverty and inadequate schools a place where children can still go hungry and the sick can go without treatment. A place that needed somebody like Clem. (Applause.)

His position in the minority party meant the odds of winning more resources for his constituents were often long. His calls for greater equity were too often unheeded, the votes he cast were sometimes lonely. But he never gave up. He stayed true to his convictions. He would not grow discouraged. After a full day at the capitol, he&rsquod climb into his car and head to the church to draw sustenance from his family, from his ministry, from the community that loved and needed him. There he would fortify his faith, and imagine what might be.

Reverend Pinckney embodied a politics that was neither mean, nor small. He conducted himself quietly, and kindly, and diligently. He encouraged progress not by pushing his ideas alone, but by seeking out your ideas, partnering with you to make things happen. He was full of empathy and fellow feeling, able to walk in somebody else&rsquos shoes and see through their eyes. No wonder one of his senate colleagues remembered Senator Pinckney as &ldquothe most gentle of the 46 of us &mdash the best of the 46 of us.&rdquo

Clem was often asked why he chose to be a pastor and a public servant. But the person who asked probably didn&rsquot know the history of the AME church. (Applause.) As our brothers and sisters in the AME church know, we don&rsquot make those distinctions. &ldquoOur calling,&rdquo Clem once said, &ldquois not just within the walls of the congregation, but&hellipthe life and community in which our congregation resides.&rdquo (Applause.)

He embodied the idea that our Christian faith demands deeds and not just words that the &ldquosweet hour of prayer&rdquo actually lasts the whole week long &mdash (applause) &mdash that to put our faith in action is more than individual salvation, it&rsquos about our collective salvation that to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and house the homeless is not just a call for isolated charity but the imperative of a just society.

What a good man. Sometimes I think that&rsquos the best thing to hope for when you&rsquore eulogized &mdash after all the words and recitations and resumes are read, to just say someone was a good man. (Applause.)

You don&rsquot have to be of high station to be a good man. Preacher by 13. Pastor by 18. Public servant by 23. What a life Clementa Pinckney lived. What an example he set. What a model for his faith. And then to lose him at 41 &mdash slain in his sanctuary with eight wonderful members of his flock, each at different stages in life but bound together by a common commitment to God.

Cynthia Hurd. Susie Jackson. Ethel Lance. DePayne Middleton-Doctor. Tywanza Sanders. Daniel L. Simmons. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton. Myra Thompson. Good people. Decent people. God-fearing people. (Applause.) People so full of life and so full of kindness. People who ran the race, who persevered. People of great faith.

To the families of the fallen, the nation shares in your grief. Our pain cuts that much deeper because it happened in a church. The church is and always has been the center of African-American life &mdash (applause) &mdash a place to call our own in a too often hostile world, a sanctuary from so many hardships.

Over the course of centuries, black churches served as &ldquohush harbors&rdquo where slaves could worship in safety praise houses where their free descendants could gather and shout hallelujah &mdash (applause) &mdash rest stops for the weary along the Underground Railroad bunkers for the foot soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement. They have been, and continue to be, community centers where we organize for jobs and justice places of scholarship and network places where children are loved and fed and kept out of harm&rsquos way, and told that they are beautiful and smart &mdash (applause) &mdash and taught that they matter. (Applause.) That&rsquos what happens in church.

That&rsquos what the black church means. Our beating heart. The place where our dignity as a people is inviolate. When there&rsquos no better example of this tradition than Mother Emanuel &mdash (applause) &mdash a church built by blacks seeking liberty, burned to the ground because its founder sought to end slavery, only to rise up again, a Phoenix from these ashes. (Applause.)

When there were laws banning all-black church gatherings, services happened here anyway, in defiance of unjust laws. When there was a righteous movement to dismantle Jim Crow, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached from its pulpit, and marches began from its steps. A sacred place, this church. Not just for blacks, not just for Christians, but for every American who cares about the steady expansion &mdash (applause) &mdash of human rights and human dignity in this country a foundation stone for liberty and justice for all. That&rsquos what the church meant. (Applause.)

We do not know whether the killer of Reverend Pinckney and eight others knew all of this history. But he surely sensed the meaning of his violent act. It was an act that drew on a long history of bombs and arson and shots fired at churches, not random, but as a means of control, a way to terrorize and oppress. (Applause.) An act that he imagined would incite fear and recrimination violence and suspicion. An act that he presumed would deepen divisions that trace back to our nation&rsquos original sin.

Oh, but God works in mysterious ways. (Applause.) God has different ideas. (Applause.)

He didn&rsquot know he was being used by God. (Applause.) Blinded by hatred, the alleged killer could not see the grace surrounding Reverend Pinckney and that Bible study group &mdash the light of love that shone as they opened the church doors and invited a stranger to join in their prayer circle. The alleged killer could have never anticipated the way the families of the fallen would respond when they saw him in court &mdash in the midst of unspeakable grief, with words of forgiveness. He couldn&rsquot imagine that. (Applause.)

The alleged killer could not imagine how the city of Charleston, under the good and wise leadership of Mayor Riley &mdash (applause) &mdash how the state of South Carolina, how the United States of America would respond &mdash not merely with revulsion at his evil act, but with big-hearted generosity and, more importantly, with a thoughtful introspection and self-examination that we so rarely see in public life.

Blinded by hatred, he failed to comprehend what Reverend Pinckney so well understood &mdash the power of God&rsquos grace. (Applause.)

This whole week, I&rsquove been reflecting on this idea of grace. (Applause.) The grace of the families who lost loved ones. The grace that Reverend Pinckney would preach about in his sermons. The grace described in one of my favorite hymnals &mdash the one we all know: Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. (Applause.) I once was lost, but now I&rsquom found was blind but now I see. (Applause.)

According to the Christian tradition, grace is not earned. Grace is not merited. It&rsquos not something we deserve. Rather, grace is the free and benevolent favor of God &mdash (applause) &mdash as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. Grace.

As a nation, out of this terrible tragedy, God has visited grace upon us, for he has allowed us to see where we&rsquove been blind. (Applause.) He has given us the chance, where we&rsquove been lost, to find our best selves. (Applause.) We may not have earned it, this grace, with our rancor and complacency, and short-sightedness and fear of each other &mdash but we got it all the same. He gave it to us anyway. He&rsquos once more given us grace. But it is up to us now to make the most of it, to receive it with gratitude, and to prove ourselves worthy of this gift.

For too long, we were blind to the pain that the Confederate flag stirred in too many of our citizens. (Applause.) It&rsquos true, a flag did not cause these murders. But as people from all walks of life, Republicans and Democrats, now acknowledge &mdash including Governor Haley, whose recent eloquence on the subject is worthy of praise &mdash (applause) &mdash as we all have to acknowledge, the flag has always represented more than just ancestral pride. (Applause.) For many, black and white, that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation. We see that now.

Removing the flag from this state&rsquos capitol would not be an act of political correctness it would not be an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers. It would simply be an acknowledgment that the cause for which they fought &mdash the cause of slavery &mdash was wrong &mdash (applause) &mdash the imposition of Jim Crow after the Civil War, the resistance to civil rights for all people was wrong. (Applause.) It would be one step in an honest accounting of America&rsquos history a modest but meaningful balm for so many unhealed wounds. It would be an expression of the amazing changes that have transformed this state and this country for the better, because of the work of so many people of goodwill, people of all races striving to form a more perfect union. By taking down that flag, we express God&rsquos grace. (Applause.)

But I don&rsquot think God wants us to stop there. (Applause.) For too long, we&rsquove been blind to the way past injustices continue to shape the present. Perhaps we see that now. Perhaps this tragedy causes us to ask some tough questions about how we can permit so many of our children to languish in poverty, or attend dilapidated schools, or grow up without prospects for a job or for a career. (Applause.)

Perhaps it causes us to examine what we&rsquore doing to cause some of our children to hate. (Applause.) Perhaps it softens hearts towards those lost young men, tens and tens of thousands caught up in the criminal justice system &mdash (applause) &mdash and leads us to make sure that that system is not infected with bias that we embrace changes in how we train and equip our police so that the bonds of trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve make us all safer and more secure. (Applause.)

Maybe we now realize the way racial bias can infect us even when we don&rsquot realize it, so that we&rsquore guarding against not just racial slurs, but we&rsquore also guarding against the subtle impulse to call Johnny back for a job interview but not Jamal. (Applause.) So that we search our hearts when we consider laws to make it harder for some of our fellow citizens to vote. (Applause.) By recognizing our common humanity by treating every child as important, regardless of the color of their skin or the station into which they were born, and to do what&rsquos necessary to make opportunity real for every American &mdash by doing that, we express God&rsquos grace. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: For too long, we&rsquove been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts upon this nation. (Applause.) Sporadically, our eyes are open: When eight of our brothers and sisters are cut down in a church basement, 12 in a movie theater, 26 in an elementary school. But I hope we also see the 30 precious lives cut short by gun violence in this country every single day the countless more whose lives are forever changed &mdash the survivors crippled, the children traumatized and fearful every day as they walk to school, the husband who will never feel his wife&rsquos warm touch, the entire communities whose grief overflows every time they have to watch what happened to them happen to some other place.

The vast majority of Americans &mdash the majority of gun owners &mdash want to do something about this. We see that now. (Applause.) And I&rsquom convinced that by acknowledging the pain and loss of others, even as we respect the traditions and ways of life that make up this beloved country &mdash by making the moral choice to change, we express God&rsquos grace. (Applause.)

We don&rsquot earn grace. We&rsquore all sinners. We don&rsquot deserve it. (Applause.) But God gives it to us anyway. (Applause.) And we choose how to receive it. It&rsquos our decision how to honor it.

None of us can or should expect a transformation in race relations overnight. Every time something like this happens, somebody says we have to have a conversation about race. We talk a lot about race. There&rsquos no shortcut. And we don&rsquot need more talk. (Applause.) None of us should believe that a handful of gun safety measures will prevent every tragedy. It will not. People of goodwill will continue to debate the merits of various policies, as our democracy requires &mdash this is a big, raucous place, America is. And there are good people on both sides of these debates. Whatever solutions we find will necessarily be incomplete.

But it would be a betrayal of everything Reverend Pinckney stood for, I believe, if we allowed ourselves to slip into a comfortable silence again. (Applause.) Once the eulogies have been delivered, once the TV cameras move on, to go back to business as usual &mdash that&rsquos what we so often do to avoid uncomfortable truths about the prejudice that still infects our society. (Applause.) To settle for symbolic gestures without following up with the hard work of more lasting change &mdash that&rsquos how we lose our way again.

It would be a refutation of the forgiveness expressed by those families if we merely slipped into old habits, whereby those who disagree with us are not merely wrong but bad where we shout instead of listen where we barricade ourselves behind preconceived notions or well-practiced cynicism.

Reverend Pinckney once said, &ldquoAcross the South, we have a deep appreciation of history &mdash we haven&rsquot always had a deep appreciation of each other&rsquos history.&rdquo (Applause.) What is true in the South is true for America. Clem understood that justice grows out of recognition of ourselves in each other. That my liberty depends on you being free, too. (Applause.) That history can&rsquot be a sword to justify injustice, or a shield against progress, but must be a manual for how to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past &mdash how to break the cycle. A roadway toward a better world. He knew that the path of grace involves an open mind &mdash but, more importantly, an open heart.

That&rsquos what I&rsquove felt this week &mdash an open heart. That, more than any particular policy or analysis, is what&rsquos called upon right now, I think &mdash what a friend of mine, the writer Marilyn Robinson, calls &ldquothat reservoir of goodness, beyond, and of another kind, that we are able to do each other in the ordinary cause of things.&rdquo

That reservoir of goodness. If we can find that grace, anything is possible. (Applause.) If we can tap that grace, everything can change. (Applause.)

Amazing grace. Amazing grace.

(Begins to sing) &mdash Amazing grace &mdash (applause) &mdash how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me I once was lost, but now I&rsquom found was blind but now I see. (Applause.)

Clementa Pinckney found that grace.

Cynthia Hurd found that grace.

Susie Jackson found that grace.

Ethel Lance found that grace.

DePayne Middleton-Doctor found that grace.

Tywanza Sanders found that grace.

Daniel L. Simmons, Sr. found that grace.

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton found that grace.

Myra Thompson found that grace.

Through the example of their lives, they&rsquove now passed it on to us. May we find ourselves worthy of that precious and extraordinary gift, as long as our lives endure. May grace now lead them home. May God continue to shed His grace on the United States of America. (Applause.)


REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT IN EULOGY FOR THE HONORABLE REVEREND CLEMENTA PINCKNEY

President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks during services honoring the life of Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Friday, June 26, 2015, at the College of Charleston TD Arena in Charleston, S.C.. Pinckney was one of the nine people killed in the shooting at Emanuel AME Church last week in Charleston. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

THE PRESIDENT: Giving all praise and honor to God. (Applause.)

The Bible calls us to hope. To persevere, and have faith in things not seen.

“They were still living by faith when they died,” Scripture tells us. “They did not receive the things promised they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on Earth.”

We are here today to remember a man of God who lived by faith. A man who believed in things not seen. A man who believed there were better days ahead, off in the distance. A man of service who persevered, knowing full well he would not receive all those things he was promised, because he believed his efforts would deliver a better life for those who followed.

To Jennifer, his beloved wife to Eliana and Malana, his beautiful, wonderful daughters to the Mother Emanuel family and the people of Charleston, the people of South Carolina.

I cannot claim to have the good fortune to know Reverend Pinckney well. But I did have the pleasure of knowing him and meeting him here in South Carolina, back when we were both a little bit younger. (Laughter.) Back when I didn’t have visible grey hair. (Laughter.) The first thing I noticed was his graciousness, his smile, his reassuring baritone, his deceptive sense of humor — all qualities that helped him wear so effortlessly a heavy burden of expectation.

Friends of his remarked this week that when Clementa Pinckney entered a room, it was like the future arrived that even from a young age, folks knew he was special. Anointed. He was the progeny of a long line of the faithful — a family of preachers who spread God’s word, a family of protesters who sowed change to expand voting rights and desegregate the South. Clem heard their instruction, and he did not forsake their teaching.

He was in the pulpit by 13, pastor by 18, public servant by 23. He did not exhibit any of the cockiness of youth, nor youth’s insecurities instead, he set an example worthy of his position, wise beyond his years, in his speech, in his conduct, in his love, faith, and purity.

As a senator, he represented a sprawling swath of the Lowcountry, a place that has long been one of the most neglected in America. A place still wracked by poverty and inadequate schools a place where children can still go hungry and the sick can go without treatment. A place that needed somebody like Clem. (Applause.)

His position in the minority party meant the odds of winning more resources for his constituents were often long. His calls for greater equity were too often unheeded, the votes he cast were sometimes lonely. But he never gave up. He stayed true to his convictions. He would not grow discouraged. After a full day at the capitol, he’d climb into his car and head to the church to draw sustenance from his family, from his ministry, from the community that loved and needed him. There he would fortify his faith, and imagine what might be.

Reverend Pinckney embodied a politics that was neither mean, nor small. He conducted himself quietly, and kindly, and diligently. He encouraged progress not by pushing his ideas alone, but by seeking out your ideas, partnering with you to make things happen. He was full of empathy and fellow feeling, able to walk in somebody else’s shoes and see through their eyes. No wonder one of his senate colleagues remembered Senator Pinckney as “the most gentle of the 46 of us — the best of the 46 of us.”

Clem was often asked why he chose to be a pastor and a public servant. But the person who asked probably didn’t know the history of the AME church. (Applause.) As our brothers and sisters in the AME church know, we don’t make those distinctions. “Our calling,” Clem once said, “is not just within the walls of the congregation, but…the life and community in which our congregation resides.” (Applause.)

He embodied the idea that our Christian faith demands deeds and not just words that the “sweet hour of prayer” actually lasts the whole week long — (applause) — that to put our faith in action is more than individual salvation, it’s about our collective salvation that to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and house the homeless is not just a call for isolated charity but the imperative of a just society.

What a good man. Sometimes I think that’s the best thing to hope for when you’re eulogized — after all the words and recitations and resumes are read, to just say someone was a good man. (Applause.)

You don’t have to be of high station to be a good man. Preacher by 13. Pastor by 18. Public servant by 23. What a life Clementa Pinckney lived. What an example he set. What a model for his faith. And then to lose him at 41 — slain in his sanctuary with eight wonderful members of his flock, each at different stages in life but bound together by a common commitment to God.

Cynthia Hurd. Susie Jackson. Ethel Lance. DePayne Middleton-Doctor. Tywanza Sanders. Daniel L. Simmons. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton. Myra Thompson. Good people. Decent people. God-fearing people. (Applause.) People so full of life and so full of kindness. People who ran the race, who persevered. People of great faith.

To the families of the fallen, the nation shares in your grief. Our pain cuts that much deeper because it happened in a church. The church is and always has been the center of African-American life — (applause) — a place to call our own in a too often hostile world, a sanctuary from so many hardships.

Over the course of centuries, black churches served as “hush harbors” where slaves could worship in safety praise houses where their free descendants could gather and shout hallelujah — (applause) — rest stops for the weary along the Underground Railroad bunkers for the foot soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement. They have been, and continue to be, community centers where we organize for jobs and justice places of scholarship and network places where children are loved and fed and kept out of harm’s way, and told that they are beautiful and smart — (applause) — and taught that they matter. (Applause.) That’s what happens in church.

That’s what the black church means. Our beating heart. The place where our dignity as a people is inviolate. When there’s no better example of this tradition than Mother Emanuel — (applause) — a church built by blacks seeking liberty, burned to the ground because its founder sought to end slavery, only to rise up again, a Phoenix from these ashes. (Applause.)

When there were laws banning all-black church gatherings, services happened here anyway, in defiance of unjust laws. When there was a righteous movement to dismantle Jim Crow, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached from its pulpit, and marches began from its steps. A sacred place, this church. Not just for blacks, not just for Christians, but for every American who cares about the steady expansion — (applause) — of human rights and human dignity in this country a foundation stone for liberty and justice for all. That’s what the church meant. (Applause.)

We do not know whether the killer of Reverend Pinckney and eight others knew all of this history. But he surely sensed the meaning of his violent act. It was an act that drew on a long history of bombs and arson and shots fired at churches, not random, but as a means of control, a way to terrorize and oppress. (Applause.) An act that he imagined would incite fear and recrimination violence and suspicion. An act that he presumed would deepen divisions that trace back to our nation’s original sin.

Oh, but God works in mysterious ways. (Applause.) God has different ideas. (Applause.)

He didn’t know he was being used by God. (Applause.) Blinded by hatred, the alleged killer could not see the grace surrounding Reverend Pinckney and that Bible study group — the light of love that shone as they opened the church doors and invited a stranger to join in their prayer circle. The alleged killer could have never anticipated the way the families of the fallen would respond when they saw him in court — in the midst of unspeakable grief, with words of forgiveness. He couldn’t imagine that. (Applause.)

The alleged killer could not imagine how the city of Charleston, under the good and wise leadership of Mayor Riley — (applause) — how the state of South Carolina, how the United States of America would respond — not merely with revulsion at his evil act, but with big-hearted generosity and, more importantly, with a thoughtful introspection and self-examination that we so rarely see in public life.

Blinded by hatred, he failed to comprehend what Reverend Pinckney so well understood — the power of God’s grace. (Applause.)

This whole week, I’ve been reflecting on this idea of grace. (Applause.) The grace of the families who lost loved ones. The grace that Reverend Pinckney would preach about in his sermons. The grace described in one of my favorite hymnals — the one we all know: Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. (Applause.) I once was lost, but now I’m found was blind but now I see. (Applause.)

According to the Christian tradition, grace is not earned. Grace is not merited. It’s not something we deserve. Rather, grace is the free and benevolent favor of God — (applause) — as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. Grace.

As a nation, out of this terrible tragedy, God has visited grace upon us, for he has allowed us to see where we’ve been blind. (Applause.) He has given us the chance, where we’ve been lost, to find our best selves. (Applause.) We may not have earned it, this grace, with our rancor and complacency, and short-sightedness and fear of each other — but we got it all the same. He gave it to us anyway. He’s once more given us grace. But it is up to us now to make the most of it, to receive it with gratitude, and to prove ourselves worthy of this gift.

For too long, we were blind to the pain that the Confederate flag stirred in too many of our citizens. (Applause.) It’s true, a flag did not cause these murders. But as people from all walks of life, Republicans and Democrats, now acknowledge — including Governor Haley, whose recent eloquence on the subject is worthy of praise — (applause) — as we all have to acknowledge, the flag has always represented more than just ancestral pride. (Applause.) For many, black and white, that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation. We see that now.

Removing the flag from this state’s capitol would not be an act of political correctness it would not be an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers. It would simply be an acknowledgment that the cause for which they fought — the cause of slavery — was wrong — (applause) — the imposition of Jim Crow after the Civil War, the resistance to civil rights for all people was wrong. (Applause.) It would be one step in an honest accounting of America’s history a modest but meaningful balm for so many unhealed wounds. It would be an expression of the amazing changes that have transformed this state and this country for the better, because of the work of so many people of goodwill, people of all races striving to form a more perfect union. By taking down that flag, we express God’s grace. (Applause.)

But I don’t think God wants us to stop there. (Applause.) For too long, we’ve been blind to the way past injustices continue to shape the present. Perhaps we see that now. Perhaps this tragedy causes us to ask some tough questions about how we can permit so many of our children to languish in poverty, or attend dilapidated schools, or grow up without prospects for a job or for a career. (Applause.)

Perhaps it causes us to examine what we’re doing to cause some of our children to hate. (Applause.) Perhaps it softens hearts towards those lost young men, tens and tens of thousands caught up in the criminal justice system — (applause) — and leads us to make sure that that system is not infected with bias that we embrace changes in how we train and equip our police so that the bonds of trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve make us all safer and more secure. (Applause.)

Maybe we now realize the way racial bias can infect us even when we don’t realize it, so that we’re guarding against not just racial slurs, but we’re also guarding against the subtle impulse to call Johnny back for a job interview but not Jamal. (Applause.) So that we search our hearts when we consider laws to make it harder for some of our fellow citizens to vote. (Applause.) By recognizing our common humanity by treating every child as important, regardless of the color of their skin or the station into which they were born, and to do what’s necessary to make opportunity real for every American — by doing that, we express God’s grace. (Applause.)

AUDIENCE: For too long!

THE PRESIDENT: For too long, we’ve been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts upon this nation. (Applause.) Sporadically, our eyes are open: When eight of our brothers and sisters are cut down in a church basement, 12 in a movie theater, 26 in an elementary school. But I hope we also see the 30 precious lives cut short by gun violence in this country every single day the countless more whose lives are forever changed — the survivors crippled, the children traumatized and fearful every day as they walk to school, the husband who will never feel his wife’s warm touch, the entire communities whose grief overflows every time they have to watch what happened to them happen to some other place.

The vast majority of Americans — the majority of gun owners — want to do something about this. We see that now. (Applause.) And I’m convinced that by acknowledging the pain and loss of others, even as we respect the traditions and ways of life that make up this beloved country — by making the moral choice to change, we express God’s grace. (Applause.)

We don’t earn grace. We’re all sinners. We don’t deserve it. (Applause.) But God gives it to us anyway. (Applause.) And we choose how to receive it. It’s our decision how to honor it.

None of us can or should expect a transformation in race relations overnight. Every time something like this happens, somebody says we have to have a conversation about race. We talk a lot about race. There’s no shortcut. And we don’t need more talk. (Applause.) None of us should believe that a handful of gun safety measures will prevent every tragedy. It will not. People of goodwill will continue to debate the merits of various policies, as our democracy requires — this is a big, raucous place, America is. And there are good people on both sides of these debates. Whatever solutions we find will necessarily be incomplete.

But it would be a betrayal of everything Reverend Pinckney stood for, I believe, if we allowed ourselves to slip into a comfortable silence again. (Applause.) Once the eulogies have been delivered, once the TV cameras move on, to go back to business as usual — that’s what we so often do to avoid uncomfortable truths about the prejudice that still infects our society. (Applause.) To settle for symbolic gestures without following up with the hard work of more lasting change — that’s how we lose our way again.

It would be a refutation of the forgiveness expressed by those families if we merely slipped into old habits, whereby those who disagree with us are not merely wrong but bad where we shout instead of listen where we barricade ourselves behind preconceived notions or well-practiced cynicism.

Reverend Pinckney once said, “Across the South, we have a deep appreciation of history — we haven’t always had a deep appreciation of each other’s history.” (Applause.) What is true in the South is true for America. Clem understood that justice grows out of recognition of ourselves in each other. That my liberty depends on you being free, too. (Applause.) That history can’t be a sword to justify injustice, or a shield against progress, but must be a manual for how to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past — how to break the cycle. A roadway toward a better world. He knew that the path of grace involves an open mind — but, more importantly, an open heart.

That’s what I’ve felt this week — an open heart. That, more than any particular policy or analysis, is what’s called upon right now, I think — what a friend of mine, the writer Marilyn Robinson, calls “that reservoir of goodness, beyond, and of another kind, that we are able to do each other in the ordinary cause of things.”

That reservoir of goodness. If we can find that grace, anything is possible. (Applause.) If we can tap that grace, everything can change. (Applause.)

Amazing grace. Amazing grace.

(Begins to sing) — Amazing grace — (applause) — how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me I once was lost, but now I’m found was blind but now I see. (Applause.)

Clementa Pinckney found that grace.

Cynthia Hurd found that grace.

Susie Jackson found that grace.

Ethel Lance found that grace.

DePayne Middleton-Doctor found that grace.

Tywanza Sanders found that grace.

Daniel L. Simmons, Sr. found that grace.

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton found that grace.

Myra Thompson found that grace.

Through the example of their lives, they’ve now passed it on to us. May we find ourselves worthy of that precious and extraordinary gift, as long as our lives endure. May grace now lead them home. May God continue to shed His grace on the United States of America. (Applause.)


Remarks by the President in Eulogy for the Honorable Reverend Clementa Pinckney

College of Charleston
Charleston, South Carolina
2:49 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Giving all praise and honour to God.

The Bible calls us to hope. To persevere, and have faith in things not seen.

“They were still living by faith when they died,” Scripture tells us. “They did not receive the things promised they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on Earth.”

We are here today to remember a man of God who lived by faith. A man who believed in things not seen. A man who believed there were better days ahead, off in the distance. A man of service who persevered, knowing full well he would not receive all those things he was promised, because he believed his efforts would deliver a better life for those who followed.

To Jennifer, his beloved wife to Eliana and Malana, his beautiful, wonderful daughters to the Mother Emanuel family and the people of Charleston, the people of South Carolina.

I cannot claim to have the good fortune to know Reverend Pinckney well. But I did have the pleasure of knowing him and meeting him here in South Carolina, back when we were both a little bit younger. (Laughter.) Back when I didn’t have visible grey hair. (Laughter.) The first thing I noticed was his graciousness, his smile, his reassuring baritone, his deceptive sense of humour — all qualities that helped him wear so effortlessly a heavy burden of expectation.

Friends of his remarked this week that when Clementa Pinckney entered a room, it was like the future arrived that even from a young age, folks knew he was special. Anointed. He was the progeny of a long line of the faithful — a family of preachers who spread God’s word, a family of protesters who sowed change to expand voting rights and desegregate the South. Clem heard their instruction, and he did not forsake their teaching.

He was in the pulpit by 13, pastor by 18, public servant by 23. He did not exhibit any of the cockiness of youth, nor youth’s insecurities instead, he set an example worthy of his position, wise beyond his years, in his speech, in his conduct, in his love, faith, and purity.

As a senator, he represented a sprawling swath of the Lowcountry, a place that has long been one of the most neglected in America. A place still wracked by poverty and inadequate schools a place where children can still go hungry and the sick can go without treatment. A place that needed somebody like Clem.

His position in the minority party meant the odds of winning more resources for his constituents were often long. His calls for greater equity were too often unheeded, the votes he cast were sometimes lonely. But he never gave up. He stayed true to his convictions. He would not grow discouraged. After a full day at the capitol, he’d climb into his car and head to the church to draw sustenance from his family, from his ministry, from the community that loved and needed him. There he would fortify his faith, and imagine what might be.

Reverend Pinckney embodied a politics that was neither mean, nor small. He conducted himself quietly, and kindly, and diligently. He encouraged progress not by pushing his ideas alone, but by seeking out your ideas, partnering with you to make things happen. He was full of empathy and fellow feeling, able to walk in somebody else’s shoes and see through their eyes. No wonder one of his senate colleagues remembered Senator Pinckney as “the most gentle of the 46 of us — the best of the 46 of us.”

Clem was often asked why he chose to be a pastor and a public servant. But the person who asked probably didn’t know the history of the AME church. As our brothers and sisters in the AME church know, we don’t make those distinctions. “Our calling,” Clem once said, “is not just within the walls of the congregation, but…the life and community in which our congregation resides.”

He embodied the idea that our Christian faith demands deeds and not just words that the “sweet hour of prayer” actually lasts the whole week long, that to put our faith in action is more than individual salvation, it’s about our collective salvation that to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and house the homeless is not just a call for isolated charity but the imperative of a just society.

What a good man. Sometimes I think that’s the best thing to hope for when you’re eulogized — after all the words and recitations and resumes are read, to just say someone was a good man.

You don’t have to be of high station to be a good man. Preacher by 13. Pastor by 18. Public servant by 23. What a life Clementa Pinckney lived. What an example he set. What a model for his faith. And then to lose him at 41 — slain in his sanctuary with eight wonderful members of his flock, each at different stages in life but bound together by a common commitment to God.

Cynthia Hurd. Susie Jackson. Ethel Lance. DePayne Middleton-Doctor. Tywanza Sanders. Daniel L. Simmons. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton. Myra Thompson. Good people. Decent people. God-fearing people. People so full of life and so full of kindness. People who ran the race, who persevered. People of great faith.

To the families of the fallen, the nation shares in your grief. Our pain cuts that much deeper because it happened in a church. The church is and always has been the centre of African-American life, a place to call our own in a too often hostile world, a sanctuary from so many hardships.

Over the course of centuries, black churches served as “hush harbours” where slaves could worship in safety praise houses where their free descendants could gather and shout hallelujah, rest stops for the weary along the Underground Railroad bunkers for the foot soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement. They have been, and continue to be, community centres where we organize for jobs and justice places of scholarship and network places where children are loved and fed and kept out of harm’s way, and told that they are beautiful and smart, and taught that they matter. That’s what happens in church.

That’s what the black church means. Our beating heart. The place where our dignity as a people is inviolate. When there’s no better example of this tradition than Mother Emanuel, a church built by blacks seeking liberty, burned to the ground because its founder sought to end slavery, only to rise up again, a Phoenix from these ashes.

When there were laws banning all-black church gatherings, services happened here anyway, in defiance of unjust laws. When there was a righteous movement to dismantle Jim Crow, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached from its pulpit, and marches began from its steps. A sacred place, this church. Not just for blacks, not just for Christians, but for every American who cares about the steady expansion of human rights and human dignity in this country a foundation stone for liberty and justice for all. That’s what the church meant.

We do not know whether the killer of Reverend Pinckney and eight others knew all of this history. But he surely sensed the meaning of his violent act. It was an act that drew on a long history of bombs and arson and shots fired at churches, not random, but as a means of control, a way to terrorize and oppress. An act that he imagined would incite fear and recrimination violence and suspicion. An act that he presumed would deepen divisions that trace back to our nation’s original sin.

Oh, but God works in mysterious ways. God has different ideas.

He didn’t know he was being used by God. Blinded by hatred, the alleged killer could not see the grace surrounding Reverend Pinckney and that Bible study group — the light of love that shone as they opened the church doors and invited a stranger to join in their prayer circle. The alleged killer could have never anticipated the way the families of the fallen would respond when they saw him in court — in the midst of unspeakable grief, with words of forgiveness. He couldn’t imagine that.

The alleged killer could not imagine how the city of Charleston, under the good and wise leadership of Mayor Riley, how the state of South Carolina, how the United States of America would respond — not merely with revulsion at his evil act, but with big-hearted generosity and, more importantly, with a thoughtful introspection and self-examination that we so rarely see in public life.

Blinded by hatred, he failed to comprehend what Reverend Pinckney so well understood — the power of God’s grace.

This whole week, I’ve been reflecting on this idea of grace. The grace of the families who lost loved ones. The grace that Reverend Pinckney would preach about in his sermons. The grace described in one of my favourite hymnals — the one we all know: Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found was blind but now I see.

According to the Christian tradition, grace is not earned. Grace is not merited. It’s not something we deserve. Rather, grace is the free and benevolent favour of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. Grace.

As a nation, out of this terrible tragedy, God has visited grace upon us, for he has allowed us to see where we’ve been blind. He has given us the chance, where we’ve been lost, to find our best selves. We may not have earned it, this grace, with our rancour and complacency, and short-sightedness and fear of each other — but we got it all the same. He gave it to us anyway. He’s once more given us grace. But it is up to us now to make the most of it, to receive it with gratitude, and to prove ourselves worthy of this gift.

For too long, we were blind to the pain that the Confederate flag stirred in too many of our citizens. It’s true, a flag did not cause these murders. But as people from all walks of life, Republicans and Democrats, now acknowledge — including Governor Haley, whose recent eloquence on the subject is worthy of praise, as we all have to acknowledge, the flag has always represented more than just ancestral pride. For many, black and white, that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation. We see that now.

Removing the flag from this state’s capitol would not be an act of political correctness it would not be an insult to the valour of Confederate soldiers. It would simply be an acknowledgement that the cause for which they fought — the cause of slavery — was wrong — the imposition of Jim Crow after the Civil War, the resistance to civil rights for all people was wrong. It would be one step in an honest accounting of America’s history a modest but meaningful balm for so many unhealed wounds. It would be an expression of the amazing changes that have transformed this state and this country for the better, because of the work of so many people of goodwill, people of all races striving to form a more perfect union. By taking down that flag, we express God’s grace.

But I don’t think God wants us to stop there. For too long, we’ve been blind to the way past injustices continue to shape the present. Perhaps we see that now. Perhaps this tragedy causes us to ask some tough questions about how we can permit so many of our children to languish in poverty, or attend dilapidated schools, or grow up without prospects for a job or for a career.

Perhaps it causes us to examine what we’re doing to cause some of our children to hate. Perhaps it softens hearts towards those lost young men, tens and tens of thousands caught up in the criminal justice system, and leads us to make sure that that system is not infected with bias that we embrace changes in how we train and equip our police so that the bonds of trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve make us all safer and more secure.

Maybe we now realize the way racial bias can infect us even when we don’t realize it, so that we’re guarding against not just racial slurs, but we’re also guarding against the subtle impulse to call Johnny back for a job interview but not Jamal. So that we search our hearts when we consider laws to make it harder for some of our fellow citizens to vote. By recognizing our common humanity by treating every child as important, regardless of the colour of their skin or the station into which they were born, and to do what’s necessary to make opportunity real for every American — by doing that, we express God’s grace.

THE PRESIDENT: For too long, we’ve been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts upon this nation. Sporadically, our eyes are open: When eight of our brothers and sisters are cut down in a church basement, 12 in a movie theatre, 26 in an elementary school. But I hope we also see the 30 precious lives cut short by gun violence in this country every single day the countless more whose lives are forever changed — the survivors crippled, the children traumatized and fearful every day as they walk to school, the husband who will never feel his wife’s warm touch, the entire communities whose grief overflows every time they have to watch what happened to them happen to some other place.

The vast majority of Americans — the majority of gun owners — want to do something about this. We see that now. And I’m convinced that by acknowledging the pain and loss of others, even as we respect the traditions and ways of life that make up this beloved country — by making the moral choice to change, we express God’s grace.

We don’t earn grace. We’re all sinners. We don’t deserve it. But God gives it to us anyway. And we choose how to receive it. It’s our decision how to honour it.

None of us can or should expect a transformation in race relations overnight. Every time something like this happens, somebody says we have to have a conversation about race. We talk a lot about race. There’s no shortcut. And we don’t need more talk. None of us should believe that a handful of gun safety measures will prevent every tragedy. It will not. People of goodwill will continue to debate the merits of various policies, as our democracy requires — this is a big, raucous place, America is. And there are good people on both sides of these debates. Whatever solutions we find will necessarily be incomplete.

But it would be a betrayal of everything Reverend Pinckney stood for, I believe, if we allowed ourselves to slip into a comfortable silence again. Once the eulogies have been delivered, once the TV cameras move on, to go back to business as usual — that’s what we so often do to avoid uncomfortable truths about the prejudice that still infects our society. To settle for symbolic gestures without following up with the hard work of more lasting change — that’s how we lose our way again.

It would be a refutation of the forgiveness expressed by those families if we merely slipped into old habits, whereby those who disagree with us are not merely wrong but bad where we shout instead of listen where we barricade ourselves behind preconceived notions or well-practised cynicism.

Reverend Pinckney once said, “Across the South, we have a deep appreciation of history — we haven’t always had a deep appreciation of each other’s history.” What is true in the South is true for America. Clem understood that justice grows out of recognition of ourselves in each other. That my liberty depends on you being free, too. That history can’t be a sword to justify injustice, or a shield against progress, but must be a manual for how to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past — how to break the cycle. A roadway toward a better world. He knew that the path of grace involves an open mind — but, more importantly, an open heart.

That’s what I’ve felt this week — an open heart. That, more than any particular policy or analysis, is what’s called upon right now, I think — what a friend of mine, the writer Marilyn Robinson, calls “that reservoir of goodness, beyond, and of another kind, that we are able to do each other in the ordinary cause of things.”

That reservoir of goodness. If we can find that grace, anything is possible. If we can tap that grace, everything can change.

Amazing grace. Amazing grace.

(Begins to sing) — Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me I once was lost, but now I’m found was blind but now I see.

Clementa Pinckney found that grace.

Cynthia Hurd found that grace.

Susie Jackson found that grace.

Ethel Lance found that grace.

DePayne Middleton-Doctor found that grace.

Tywanza Sanders found that grace.

Daniel L. Simmons, Sr. found that grace.

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton found that grace.

Myra Thompson found that grace.

Through the example of their lives, they’ve now passed it on to us. May we find ourselves worthy of that precious and extraordinary gift, as long as our lives endure. May grace now lead them home. May God continue to shed His grace on the United States of America.


A Eulogy in Charleston

President Obama traveled to South Carolina to speak at Clementa Pinckney&rsquos funeral.

On Friday, President Obama stood in the White House and delivered a triumphant statement on the Supreme Court’s affirmation of same-sex marriage. Then he traveled to Charleston, South Carolina, for a very different task: delivering a eulogy for Clementa Pinckney, the pastor and South Carolina state senator who was gunned down last week at the E manuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

The president spoke at the church that Pinckney led, offering a remembrance of a man he knew personally. In paying tribute to Pinckney, Obama joins a number of leaders—local and national, secular and religious—who have testified to the ways in which he affected their lives.

President Obama spoke for about 40 minutes, touching on the personal, political, and religious, and melding sermon with eulogy and, movingly, song. The theme of the speech was grace, but the president also talked about racism, poverty, gun control, the legacies of black American churches, and Confederate iconography.

We are here today to remember a man of God who lived by faith. A man who believed in things not seen. A man who believed there were better days ahead, off in the distance. A man of service who persevered knowing full well he would not receive all those things he was promised, because he believed his efforts would provide a better life for those who followed.

If you were following the speech strictly from the text of the chyrons on television, you might have walked away thinking the president’s eulogy consisted of only a few short statements—a pro forma sentence about the nation’s shared grief, a small digression about the Confederate flag, and a communal singing of “Amazing Grace.”

But the speech was more than soundbites. It wasn’t readymade for a television newscast it was a conversation that demanded the full attention of its audience. It was directed not just at the political leaders who filled the pews in Charleston, including Vice President Joe Biden, House Speaker John Boehner, and Hillary Clinton, but also ordinary Americans across the country who paused to pay their respects. “They were still living by faith when they died,” Obama said of the nine Americans who were killed last week.

Dylann Roof was “blinded by hatred” when he shot Pinckney, he said:

He failed to comprehend what Reverend Pinckney so well understood—the power of God's grace. He's given us the chance where we've been lost to find our best selves. We may not have earned it, this grace, with our rancor and complacency short-sightedness and fear of each other, but we got it all the same.

Earlier this week, David Blight wrote for The Atlantic about attending an event in April at which both he and Pinckney were set to deliver speeches. It was a commemoration marking the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War in Charleston. He wrote:

Pinckney reminded us that we were commemorating a national event of equal gravity and tragedy. Our Civil War, said the minister, had been brother against brother, “father against son, generation against generation.” Then he found a refrain: “We stand in the gate, the archway, and remember a war that divided houses.” King David had both won and lost in his divided house and he wailed of his pain. Reverend Pinckney pushed on with the image of “divided houses,” but to remind us that from such depths of agony can come a dawn of knowledge, understanding, and even-tempered healing. Pinckney was suddenly the voice of reconciliation for the vast chasms left by the Civil War, not merely the sins of Christians.

Last week, The Atlantic’s Matt Thompson explained Pinckney’s place within the worlds of both religion and politics:

Clementa Pinckney knew the history of his own city. He probably knew the name Benjamin Franklin Randolph, another black minister and state senator from Charleston to have died at the hands of angry white men, 147 years prior.

He may not have suspected that the person who had joined his small fellowship of believers at Mother Emanuel that night would sit with these few people for an hour, listen to their prayers and their blessings, then take up a gun and end their lives. But he knew that humankind had been cursed from its beginnings by hatred so potent it could be lethal—the third human mentioned in Pinckney’s Bible, after all, had killed another man out of jealousy for what he had.

Kevin Sack of The New York Times offered a fuller biography:

Clementa Carlos Pinckney, who was martyred last week in the basement of Charleston’s Emanuel A.M.E. Church, and who will be eulogized on Friday morning by the president of the United States, never lacked for either precocity or audacity.

He was ordained at 18, and assigned almost immediately to fill in for an ailing pastor in Green Pond, S.C. He presided over student government in high school and in college and, seeing politics as complementary to his ministry, earned master’s degrees in both divinity and public administration. At 23, he became the youngest elected black member of South Carolina’s legislature.

In his speech, the president added another detail: Pinckney felt called to be a pastor at the age of 13. Last week, he died at the age of 41. It is fitting that he was eulogized by a president, and it may stand to be one of the defining speeches of Obama’s time in office. But the powerful speech only served as a reminder of how much the nation has lost.


FULL VIDEO: President Obama's eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- President Barack Obama delivered a passionate discourse on America's racial history Friday in his eulogy for a state senator and pastor, slain along with eight other black churchgoers in what police called a hate crime.

"What a life Clementa Pinckney lived!" Obama said to rounds of applause and "amens." ''What an example he set. What a model for his faith. And then to lose him at 41. Slain in his sanctuary with eight wonderful members of his flock."

"Their church was a sacred place," Obama said, "not just for blacks, or Christians, but for every American who cares about the expansion of liberty. . That's what the church meant."

Thousands of mourners eagerly awaited Obama's speech, which capped a week of sorrowful goodbyes and stunning political developments. The slayings inside the Emanuel African Methodist Church last week have prompted a sudden reevaluation of the Civil War symbols that were invoked to assert white supremacy during the South's segregation era.

Pinckney came from a long line of preachers and protesters who worked to expand voting rights across the South, Obama said. "In the pulpit by 13, pastor by 18, public servant by 23. He set an example worthy of his position, wise beyond his years."

"We do not know whether the killer of Rev. Pinckney knew all of this history," the president said. "But he surely sensed the meaning of his violent act. It was an act that drew on a long history of bombs, and arsons, and shots fired at these churches not random, but as a means of control, a way to terrorize and oppress.

"It was an act that he imagined would incite fear, and incrimination, violence and suspicion. An act he presumed would deepen divisions that trace back to our nation's original sin," Obama continued, his voice rising in the cadence of the preachers who preceded him.

"Oh, but God works in mysterious ways!" Obama said, and the crowd rose to give him a standing ovation. "God has different ideas!"

Obama then spoke plainly about the ugliness of America's racial history - from slavery to the many ways minorities have been deprived of equal rights in more recent times. Removing the Confederate battle flag from places of honor is a righteous step toward justice, he said.

"By taking down that flag, we express God's grace. But I don't think God wants us to stop there," Obama said, smiling as the crowd laughed with him.

"For too long, we've been blind to the way past injustices continue to shape the present. Perhaps we see that now. Perhaps this tragedy causes us to ask some tough questions."

The president wrapped up the four-hour funeral in song, belting out the first words of "Amazing Grace" all by himself. The choir, organist and many in the audience stood up and joined him.

Slain along with Pinckney were Cynthia Hurd, 54 Tywanza Sanders, 26 Sharonda Singleton, 45 Myra Thompson, 59 Ethel Lance, 70 Susie Jackson, 87 the Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74 and DePayne Doctor, 49.

Obama named them one by one, shouting that each "found that grace!"

America's first black president sang this spiritual less than a mile from the spots where thousands of slaves were sold and where South Carolina signed its pact to leave the union a century and a half earlier.

"Thank you reverend president," joked the Rev. Norvell Goff, interim pastor of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, as Obama stepped away for private meetings with the victims' families.

Throughout the four-hour ceremony, the "Mother Emanuel" choir, hundreds strong, led roughly 6,000 people through rousing gospel standards between speakers.

"Someone should have told the young man. He wanted to start a race war. But he came to the wrong place," The Right Rev. John Richard Bryant said to rounds of applause. A banner alongside Pinckney's closed coffin declared "WRONG CHURCH! WRONG PEOPLE! WRONG DAY!"

Applause also rang out as state Sen. Gerald Malloy, Pinckey's Senate suitemate and his personal lawyer, noted how the slayings have suddenly prompted a reevaluation of Civil War symbols that were invoked to assert white supremacy during the South's segregation era.

"All the change you wanted to see and all the change you wanted to do - because of you, we will see the Confederate flag come down in South Carolina," Malloy said.

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden sang and clapped along as they sat with relatives of the victims in the front row. Also attending were first lady Michelle Obama, Jill Biden, and dozens of prominent lawmakers and civil rights leaders.

Justice Department officials broadly agree the shootings meet the legal requirements for a hate crime, meaning federal charges are likely, a federal law enforcement source told The Associated Press on Thursday, speaking anonymously because the investigation is ongoing.

The revelation that shooting suspect Dylann Storm Roof had embraced Confederate symbols before the attack, posing with the rebel battle flag and burning the U.S. flag in photos posted online, prompted this week's stunning political reversals, despite the outsized role such symbols have played in Southern identity.

Obama praised Gov. Nikki Haley for moving first by asking lawmakers Monday to bring down the flag outside South Carolina's Statehouse. Other politicians then came out saying historic but divisive symbols no longer deserve places of honor.

"It's true the flag did not cause these murders," Obama said. "But as people from all walks of life, Republicans and Democrats, now acknowledge - Gov. Haley's recent eloquence on the subject is worthy of praise - as we all have to acknowledge, the flag has always represented more than just ancestral pride."

"For many - black and white - that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation. We see that now."

"Removing the flag from this state's capitol would not be an act of political correctness. It would not be an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers. It would simply be an acknowledgment that the cause for which they fought - the cause of slavery - was wrong. The imposition of Jim Crow after the Civil War, the resistance to civil rights for all people, was wrong.

"It would be one step in an honest accounting of America's history, a modest but meaningful balm to so many unhealed wounds," he said. "It would be an expression of the amazing changes that have transformed this state and this country for the better."


Obama’s Eulogy, Which Found Its Place in History

OBAMA: Giving all praise and honor to God. (APPLAUSE) The Bible calls us to hope, to persevere and have faith in things not seen. They were still living by faith when they died, the scripture tells us. (APPLAUSE) They did not receive the things promised. They only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. We are here today to remember a man of God who lived by faith, a man who believed in things not seen, a man who believed there were better days ahead off in the distance, a man of service, who persevered knowing full-well he would not receive all those things he was promised, because he believed his efforts would deliver a better life for those who followed, to Jennifer, his beloved wife, Eliana and Malana, his beautiful, wonderful daughters, to the Mother Emanuel family and the people of Charleston, the people of South Carolina. I cannot claim to have had the good fortune to know Reverend Pinckney well, but I did have the pleasure of knowing him and meeting him here in South Carolina back when we were both a little bit younger. (LAUGHTER) . back when I didn’t have visible gray hair. (LAUGHTER) The first thing I noticed was his graciousness, his smile, his reassuring baritone, his deceptive sense of humor, all qualities that helped him wear so effortlessly a heavy burden of expectation. Friends of his remarked this week that when Clementa Pinckney entered a room, it was like the future arrived, that even from a young age, folks knew he was special, anointed. He was the progeny of a long line of the faithful, a family of preachers who spread God’s words, a family of protesters who so changed to expand voting rights and desegregate the South. Clem heard their instruction, and he did not forsake their teaching. He was in the pulpit by 13, pastor by 18, public servant by 23. He did not exhibit any of the cockiness of youth nor youth’s insecurities. Instead, he set an example worthy of his position, wise beyond his years in his speech, in his conduct, in his love, faith and purity. As a senator, he represented a sprawling swathe of low country, a place that has long been one of the most neglected in America, a place still racked by poverty and inadequate schools, a place where children can still go hungry and the sick can go without treatment — a place that needed somebody like Clem. (APPLAUSE) His position in the minority party meant the odds of winning more resources for his constituents were often long. His calls for greater equity were too-often unheeded. The votes he cast were sometimes lonely. But he never gave up. He stayed true to his convictions. He would not grow discouraged. After a full day at the Capitol, he’d climb into his car and head to the church to draw sustenance from his family, from his ministry, from the community that loved and needed him. There, he would fortify his faith and imagine what might be. Reverend Pinckney embodied a politics that was neither mean nor small. He conducted himself quietly and kindly and diligently. He encouraged progress not by pushing his ideas alone but by seeking out your ideas, partnering with you to make things happen. He was full of empathy and fellow feeling, able to walk in somebody else’s shoes and see through their eyes. No wonder one of his Senate colleagues remembered Senator Pinckney as “the most gentle of the 46 of us, the best of the 46 of us.” Clem was often asked why he chose to be a pastor and a public servant. But the person who asked probably didn’t know the history of AME Church. (APPLAUSE) As our brothers and sisters in the AME Church, we don’t make those distinctions. “Our calling,” Clem once said, “is not just within the walls of the congregation but the life and community in which our congregation resides.” (APPLAUSE) He embodied the idea that our Christian faith demands deeds and not just words, that the sweet hour of prayer actually lasts the whole week long, that to put our faith in action is more than just individual salvation, it’s about our collective salvation, that to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and house the homeless is not just a call for isolated charity but the imperative of a just society. What a good man. Sometimes I think that’s the best thing to hope for when you’re eulogized, after all the words and recitations and resumes are read, to just say somebody was a good man. (APPLAUSE) You don’t have to be of high distinction to be a good man. Preacher by 13, pastor by 18, public servant by 23. What a life Clementa Pinckney lived. What an example he set. What a model for his faith. And then to lose him at 41, slain in his sanctuary with eight wonderful members of his flock, each at different stages in life but bound together by a common commitment to God — Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, DePayne Middleton Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel L. Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Myra Thompson. Good people. Decent people. God-fearing people. (APPLAUSE) People so full of life and so full of kindness, people who ran the race, who persevered, people of great faith. To the families of the fallen, the nation shares in your grief. Our pain cuts that much deeper because it happened in a church. The church is and always has been the center of African American life. (APPLAUSE) . a place to call our own in a too-often hostile world, a sanctuary from so many hardships. Over the course of centuries, black churches served as hush harbors, where slaves could worship in safety, praise houses, where their free descendants could gather and shout “Hallelujah. ” (APPLAUSE) . rest stops for the weary along the Underground Railroad, bunkers for the foot soldiers of the civil-rights movement. They have been and continue to community centers, where we organize for jobs and justice, places of scholarship and network, places where children are loved and fed and kept out of harms way and told that they are beautiful and smart and taught that they matter. (APPLAUSE) That’s what happens in church. That’s what the black church means — our beating heart, the place where our dignity as a people in inviolate. There’s no better example of this tradition than Mother Emanuel, a church. (APPLAUSE) . a church built by blacks seeking liberty, burned to the ground because its founders sought to end slavery only to rise up again, a phoenix from these ashes. (APPLAUSE) When there were laws banning all-black church gatherers, services happened here anyway in defiance of unjust laws. When there was a righteous movement to dismantle Jim Crow, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached from its pulpit, and marches began from its steps. A sacred place, this church, not just for blacks, not just for Christians but for every American who cares about the steady expansion. (APPLAUSE) . of human rights and human dignity in this country, a foundation stone for liberty and justice for all. That’s what the church meant. (APPLAUSE) We do not know whether the killer of Reverend Pinckney and eight others knew all of this history, but he surely sensed the meaning of his violent act. It was an act that drew on a long history of bombs and arson and shots fired at churches, not random but as a means of control, a way to terrorize and oppress. (APPLAUSE) . an act that he imagined would incite fear and recrimination, violence and suspicion, an act that he presumed would deepen divisions that trace back to our nation’s original sin. Oh, but God works in mysterious ways. (APPLAUSE) God has different ideas. (APPLAUSE) He didn’t know he was being used by God. (APPLAUSE) Blinded by hatred, the alleged killer would not see the grace surrounding Reverend Pinckney and that Bible study group, the light of love that shown as they opened the church doors and invited a stranger to join in their prayer circle. The alleged killer could have never anticipated the way the families of the fallen would respond when they saw him in court in the midst of unspeakable grief, with words of forgiveness. He couldn’t imagine that. (APPLAUSE) The alleged killer could not imagine how the city of Charleston under the good and wise leadership of Mayor Riley, how the state of South Carolina, how the United States of America would respond not merely with revulsion at his evil acts, but with (inaudible) generosity. And more importantly, with a thoughtful introspection and self-examination that we so rarely see in public life. Blinded by hatred, he failed to comprehend what Reverend Pinckney so well understood — the power of God’s grace. (APPLAUSE) This whole week, I’ve been reflecting on this idea of grace. (APPLAUSE) The grace of the families who lost loved ones the grace that Reverend Pinckney would preach about in his sermons the grace described in one of my favorite hymnals, the one we all know — Amazing Grace. (APPLAUSE) How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. (APPLAUSE) I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind but now I see. (APPLAUSE) According to the Christian tradition, grace is not earned. Grace is not merited. It’s not something we deserve. Rather, grace is the free and benevolent favor of God. (APPLAUSE) As manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. Grace — as a nation out of this terrible tragedy, God has visited grace upon us for he has allowed us to see where we’ve been blind. (APPLAUSE) He’s given us the chance where we’ve been lost to find out best selves. We may not have earned this grace with our rancor and complacency and short-sightedness and fear of each other, but we got it all the same. He gave it to us anyway. He’s once more given us grace. But it is up to us now to make the most of it, to receive it with gratitude and to prove ourselves worthy of this gift. For too long, we were blind to the pain that the Confederate Flag stirred into many of our citizens. (APPLAUSE) It’s true a flag did not cause these murders. But as people from all walks of life, Republicans and Democrats, now acknowledge, including Governor Haley, whose recent eloquence on the subject is worthy of praise. (APPLAUSE) . as we all have to acknowledge, the flag has always represented more than just ancestral pride. (APPLAUSE) For many, black and white, that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression. (APPLAUSE) . and racial subjugation. (APPLAUSE) We see that now. Removing the flag from this state’s capital would not be an act of political correctness. It would not an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers. It would simply be acknowledgement that the cause for which they fought, the cause of slavery, was wrong. (APPLAUSE) The imposition of Jim Crow after the Civil War, the resistance to civil rights for all people was wrong. (APPLAUSE) It would be one step in an honest accounting of America’s history, a modest but meaningful balm for so many unhealed wounds. It would be an expression of the amazing changes that have transformed this state and this country for the better because of the work of so many people of goodwill, people of all races, striving to form a more perfect union. By taking down that flag, we express adds grace God’s grace. (APPLAUSE) But I don’t think God wants us to stop there. (APPLAUSE) For too long, we’ve been blind to be way past injustices continue to shape the present. (APPLAUSE) Perhaps we see that now. Perhaps this tragedy causes us to ask some tough questions about how we can permit so many of our children to languish in poverty. (APPLAUSE) . or attend dilapidated schools or grow up without prospects for a job or for a career. Perhaps it causes us to examine what we’re doing to cause some of our children to hate. (APPLAUSE) Perhaps it softens hearts towards those lost young men, tens and tens of thousands caught up in the criminal-justice system and lead us to make sure that that system’s not infected with bias. (APPLAUSE) . that we embrace changes in how we train and equip our police so that the bonds of trust between law enforcement. (APPLAUSE) . and the communities they serve make us all safer and more secure. (APPLAUSE) Maybe we now realize the way a racial bias can infect us even when we don’t realize it so that we’re guarding against not just racial slurs but we’re also guarding against the subtle impulse to call Johnny back for a job interview but not Jamal. (APPLAUSE) . so that we search our hearts when we consider laws to make it harder for some of our fellow citizens to vote. (APPLAUSE) . by recognizing our common humanity, by treating every child as important, regardless of the color of their skin. (APPLAUSE) . or the station into which they were born and to do what’s necessary to make opportunity real for every American. By doing that, we express God’s grace. (APPLAUSE) For too long. (APPLAUSE) For too long, we’ve been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts upon this nation. (APPLAUSE) Sporadically, our eyes are open when eight of our brothers and sisters are cut down in a church basement, 12 in a movie theater, 26 in an elementary school. But I hope we also see the 30 precious lives cut short by gun violence in this country every single day. (APPLAUSE) . the countless more whose lives are forever changed, the survivors crippled, the children traumatized and fearful every day as they walk to school, the husband who will never feel his wife’s warm touch, the entire communities whose grief overflows every time they have to watch what happened to them happening to some other place. The vast majority of Americans, the majority of gun owners want to do something about this. We see that now. (APPLAUSE) And I’m convinced that by acknowledging the pain and loss of others, even as we respect the traditions, ways of life that make up this beloved country, by making the moral choice to change, we express God’s grace. (APPLAUSE) We don’t earn grace. We’re all sinners. We don’t deserve it. (APPLAUSE) But God gives it to us anyway. (APPLAUSE) And we choose how to receive it. It’s our decision how to honor it. None of us can or should expect a transformation in race relations overnight. Every time something like this happens, somebody says, “We have to have a conversation about race.” We talk a lot about race. (APPLAUSE) There’s no shortcut. We don’t need more talk. (APPLAUSE) None of us should believe that a handful of gun safety measures will prevent every tragedy. It will not. People of good will will continue to debate the merits of various policies as our democracy requires — the big, raucous place, America is. And there are good people on both sides of these debates. Whatever solutions we find will necessarily be incomplete. But it would be a betrayal of everything Reverend Pinckney stood for, I believe, if we allow ourselves to slip into a comfortable silence again. (APPLAUSE) Once the eulogies have been delivered, once the TV cameras move on, to go back to business as usual. That’s what we so often do to avoid uncomfortable truths about the prejudice that still infects our society. (APPLAUSE) To settle for symbolic gestures without following up with the hard work of more lasting change, that’s how we lose our way again. It would be a refutation of the forgiveness expressed by those families if we merely slipped into old habits whereby those who disagree with us are not merely wrong, but bad where we shout instead of listen where we barricade ourselves behind preconceived notions or well-practiced cynicism. Reverend Pinckney once said, “Across the south, we have a deep appreciation of history. We haven’t always had a deep appreciation of each other’s history.” (APPLAUSE) What is true in the south is true for America. Clem understood that justice grows out of recognition of ourselves in each other that my liberty depends on you being free, too. (APPLAUSE) That — that history can’t be a sword to justify injustice or a shield against progress. It must be a manual for how to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, how to break the cycle, a roadway toward a better world. He knew that the path of grace involves an open mind. But more importantly, an open heart. That’s what I felt this week — an open heart. That more than any particular policy or analysis is what’s called upon right now, I think. It’s what a friend of mine, the writer Marilyn Robinson, calls “that reservoir of goodness beyond and of another kind, that we are able to do each other in the ordinary cause of things.” That reservoir of goodness. If we can find that grace, anything is possible. (APPLAUSE) If we can tap that grace, everything can change. Amazing grace, amazing grace. Amazing grace. (SINGING) (APPLAUSE) . how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind, but now, I see. (APPLAUSE) Clementa Pinckney found that grace. (APPLAUSE) . Cynthia Hurd found that grace. (APPLAUSE) . Susie Jackson found that grace. (APPLAUSE) . Ethel Lance found that grace. (APPLAUSE) . DePayne Middleton Doctor found that grace. (APPLAUSE) . Tywanza Sanders found that grace. (APPLAUSE) . Daniel L. Simmons, Sr. found that grace. (APPLAUSE) . Sharonda Coleman-Singleton found that grace. (APPLAUSE) . Myra Thompson found that grace. (APPLAUSE) . through the example of their lives. They’ve now passed it onto us. May we find ourselves worthy of that precious and extraordinary gift as long as our lives endure. May grace now lead them home. May God continue to shed His Grace on the United States of America.

Barack Obama’s eulogy for the Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., was remarkable not only because the president sang the opening refrain of “Amazing Grace” on live television, and not only because of his eloquence in memorializing the pastor and eight other parishioners killed by a white gunman. It was also remarkable because the eulogy drew on all of Mr. Obama’s gifts of language and empathy and searching intellect — first glimpsed in “Dreams From My Father,” his deeply felt 1995 memoir about identity and family. And because it used those gifts to talk about the complexities of race and justice, situating them within an echoing continuum in time that reflected both Mr. Obama’s own long view of history, and the panoramic vision of America, shared by Abraham Lincoln and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as a country in the process of perfecting itself.

Mr. Obama’s view of the nation’s history as a more than two-century journey to make the promises of the Declaration of Independence (“that all men are created equal”) real for everyone, his former chief speechwriter, Jon Favreau, suggested in an email, is “both an American and a religious sentiment” — predicated upon the belief that individual sinners and a country scarred by the original sin of slavery can overcome the past through “persistent, courageous, sometimes frustrating efforts.”

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For Mr. Obama, America is “a constant work in progress,” a nation founded upon the idea of new beginnings, and the enduring belief, as he once wrote in an essay about Lincoln, that “we can constantly remake ourselves to fit our larger dreams.” Like his two moving speeches in Selma, Ala., in 2007 and this year, Mr. Obama’s eulogy used the prism of history to amplify and crystallize the meaning of the occasion — a wide-angle lens that reminds us of the distance we’ve come from the days of slavery, segregation and Jim Crow, and the distance we have yet to travel in addressing enduring prejudice and inequities.

These are themes that have animated Mr. Obama’s writings and oratory for years, going back to his 2004 Democratic National Convention keynote address and 2008 “A More Perfect Union” speech, to his 2013 speech commemorating the 1963 March on Washington. History, he believes, is an odyssey, a crossing, a relay in which one generation’s achievements serve as the paving stones for the next generation’s journey.

In his eulogy on June 26, Mr. Obama recounted the history of Charleston’s “Mother Emanuel” — how “a church built by blacks seeking liberty” was “burned to the ground because its founders sought to end slavery” and how it rose again, “a phoenix from these ashes,” to become a sacred place where Dr. King would preach from its pulpit. He spoke of how history “must be a manual” to avoid “repeating the mistakes of the past” while building “a roadway toward a better world.”


Obama eulogizes pastor in Charleston shooting

Washington (CNN) — President Barack Obama on Friday (Saturday, June 27 PHT) eulogized the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, one of the victims in last week's church massacre, calling him a "man of God who lived by faith."

"We are here today to remember a man of God who lived by faith," Obama said. "A man who believed in things not seen. A man who believed there were better days ahead, off in the distance. A man of service who persevered knowing full well he would not receive all those things he was promised, because he believed his efforts would provide a better life for those who followed."

Friday's funeral service for Pinckney isn't the first time Obama delivered a high-profile eulogy, and with a year and a half remaining in office, it may not be the last.

But when the President stood in historic downtown Charleston to remember the slain pastor and eight others shot down in their church last week, his speech moved beyond just grief for the victims – Obama stepped directly into a national conversation about race in which he plays a central role.

The President, first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, a bipartisan host of high-level members of Congress, and Hillary Clinton headed to TD Arena for the memorial service a week after a 21-year-old man opened fire at a Bible study inside Charleston's Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

The shooter declared he was there to "kill black people," and an online manifesto attributed to him contained white supremacist screeds.

Obama, responding to the shooting hours into its aftermath, said the attack "raises questions about a dark part of our history" and called racism "a particular threat to our democracy and our ideals."

Later, speaking during a podcast interview, he candidly addressed new questions about American racism prompted by the attack, using the N-word to explain that suggestions the country has been "cured" of racism are misguided.

The shooting in Charleston left Obama "shaken," according to Rep. James Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat who spoke with Obama the morning after the incident.

Unlike past times Obama has confronted an act of violence, he knew the highest profile victim of the Charleston shooting personally. Obama met Pinckney as an early supporter of his 2008 presidential bid. Biden met the pastor and state lawmaker less than a year ago at a prayer breakfast in the state capital.

That personal connection differentiated Friday's eulogy from the funerals Obama keynoted after previous shootings. So, too, are the renewed questions on race spurred by the shooter's apparent motivations.

Around the country, traditional symbols of the Confederacy have come under renewed scrutiny, including the Confederate flag that flies at the South Carolina State House.

Obama himself used some of his bluntest language to date on race during an interview with comedian Marc Maron on Friday, saying that just because the N-word is no longer used frequently in public, "that's not the measure of whether racism still exists or not."

The moment was a distant cry from the earlier days of Obama's presidency, when he studiously avoided discussing race or the implications of his election to office.

"I think that the President has grown very weary of having to circumvent these issues, which a lot of people thought was the appropriate thing for him to do as President of the United States," Clyburn said. "But I think he has reached a conclusion that he needs to meet this issue head-on."

Ryan Julison, who is a spokesman for Walter Scott's family, told CNN "The family of Walter Scott will attend today's funeral for Reverend Pinckney. They want to show the same support to the community that the community showed to them."


Watch the video: Mourner at Clementa Pinckneys viewing: We must carry his torch (January 2022).