President Obama stood before a grief stricken crowd in Charleston, South Carolina on Friday to eulogise the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was one of the nine people gunned down on June 18 in the massacre at the famous Mother Emanuel church.
And the extraordinary and historic presidential address came to a remarkable conclusion when Obama burst into an a capella rendition of ‘Amazing Grace’, before the church band and entire audience joined in (the song starts at 35:20).
It made for a beautiful end to a stunning eulogy from Obama, which was in part a sermon, a powerful invocation of Pinckney’s life and a discussion of racism and gun violence in America.
Obama took to the stage after a series of passionate eulogies and moving gospel numbers at a packed arena at the College of Charleston.
(Pinckney was) 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 (and was) wise beyond his years. Rev. Pinckney embodied a politics that was never mean, nor small. He encouraged progress not by pushing his ideas along, but by seeking out your ideas. He embodied that our Christian faith demands deeds, not just prayer.
None of us can or should expect a transformation of 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. There are good people on both sides of these debates.
But it would be a betrayal of everything Rev. 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 the 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.
The eulogy in Charleston capped an extraordinary two days for Obama in which he hailed two landmark Supreme Court decisions.
The first saved a key part of his signature health care law and the second cleared the way for marriage equality across America. Then he delivered this incredible speech to a grieving community, capped off with a song.
Obama really is one of a kind. Could you imagine David Cameron doing something like this?