On Friday, President Barack Obama delivered a beautiful, passionate eulogy for the Reverend Clementa C. Pinckney. Pinckney was one of the nine people who lost his life in a shooting at the Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina, last week.
In the eulogy, Obama said, “The Bible calls us to hope… [the victims] were still living by faith when they died, the Scripture tells us.” He also acknowledged that the victims were all in different stages of life that tragic night, but they were “bound together by a common commitment to God.” He praised Pinckney and the eight other victims for being good people, and then he addressed their families.”
“To the families of the fallen,” he spoke, “the nation shares your grief.”
Obama actually referenced Pinckney’s murderer in the eulogy, citing that the man “didn’t know he was being used by God.”
The President claimed that the killer was “blinded by hatred” and could not observe the “grace surrounding” the group. At the same time, the shooter was, and always would be, unable to “comprehend what Reverend Pinckney so well understood – the power of God’s grace.”
He went onto discuss his personal encounters with the late reverend. The two did not know each other very well, but they met in South Carolina years ago. Obama mentioned that he immediately noticed Pinckney’s “graciousness… smile… baritone… sense of humor.” All of these things were what made Pinckney such a great reverend.
Obama also spoke about how important church is to African Americans in this country. He recognized that this church, built by African Americans, burned because its founder wanted to end slavery, only to be reborn.
“A phoenix from these ashes,” Obama remarked, using one of the most powerful metaphors one can employ.
He also touched on the controversy regarding Confederate flags. Obama knows that the flag wasn’t the cause of the shooting, but he’s also aware of what it represents. Americans know that it connotes something other than merely “ancestral pride.” It’s a symbol of “oppression and racial subjugation.”
In the eulogy, Obama said that this shooting allows Americans “to see where [they’ve] been blind.” He also remarked that God has “given us grace, but it’s up to us now to make the most of it.” Presumably, Obama is referring to implementing tighter gun control policies. He has spoken about 14 mass shootings since his 2009 inauguration.
He commented that it would be an injustice to Pinckney’s life and legacy to “go back to business as usual” and “slip into a comfortable silence again” once these funerals are over. America needs to use the Charleston incident as a wake up call. There is a problem in this country that must be remedied so it can finally know some peace.
To conclude, President Obama sang “Amazing Grace,” a hymn famously drawn from the remarks of a man who used to steer slave ships. He suddenly realized his wrongdoings and turned to God for forgiveness.