Obama’s amazing grace: President gives searing speech on race, leads church in song during emotional eulogy

President Barack Obama delivered a searing message on race relations in a wide-ranging, emotional eulogy for Rev Clementa Pinckeny that touched upon gun violence, voter suppression and the fate of the Confederate flag.

Speaking before an audience of more than 5,000 mourners gathered at the College of Charleston’s TD Arena for just under 40 minutes, Obama stunned the crowd by breaking into song as he performed the hymn ‘Amazing Grace’ at the conclusion of his remarks as his wife Michelle, Hillary Clinton and the victim’s widow and two young daughters looked on.

The passionate speech touched on a series of race-related issues and will be seen by many as an outline of the president’s agenda for his remaining two years in office.

Obama opened his speech by telling those in the audience that the pain over the killings of a church pastor and his eight black parishioners cuts much deeper because they were slain at a church – a place he described as the center of African-American life.

Referring the church as a ‘sanctuary, the president said it’s a ‘place to call our own in an often hostile world.’

The president said that while he did not know the Rev Pinckney well, he had the pleasure of meeting him in South Carolina during the 2008 presidential campaign, when he was an early supporter of Obama, and was struck at the time by the pastor’s graciousness.

‘What a life Clementa Pinckney lived, what an example he set, what a model for his faith,’ Obama said. Calling the slain pastor a ‘good man,’ Obama said Pinckney ’embodied the idea that our Christian faith demands deeds, and not just words.’

‘He never gave up. He stayed true to his convictions. He would not grow discouraged,’ Obama said.

About halfway through his remarks, the president turned to the hot-button issue of the Confederate flag and said for many it was a reminder of ‘‘systemic oppression and racial subjugation.’

‘For too long we were blind to the pain the Confederate flag has stirred in many of our citizens,’ the president told the audience.

‘Removing the flag from this state’s capitol would not be an act of political correctness,’ Obama said, ‘it would not be an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers. It would simply be an acknowledgement for the cause for which they fought, for slavery, is wrong.’

He later added, ‘By taking down that flag we express God’s grace,’ drawing loud cheers and applause.

Obama used the somber occasion to call on Americans to confront the ‘uncomfortable truths’ of the racial prejudices that still infect American society and argued that it would be a betrayal of everything the pastor stood for ‘if we allowed ourselves to slip into a comfortable silence again once the eulogies have been delivered, once the TV cameras move on.’

He pleaded with Americans not ‘to go back to business as usual.’

But the president’s address was not all about politics.

Invoking scripture and song, Obama spoke movingly of all that Pinckney had done in his life in as a clergyman and a representative of the Lowcountry region – a place he described as ‘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 still go without treatment.’

At one point, he grew emotional and was seen wiping his eyes.

Approaching the end of his 30-plus minute eulogy, President Obama suddenly began singing ‘Amazing Grace,’ which the Mother Emanuel choir and the crowd quickly picked up.

‘For too long we were blind to the pain the Confederate flag has stirred in many of our citizens,’ the president told the audience halfway through his address.

Afterward, White House officials said, the president was expected to meet with the families of the victims.

More at The DailyMail

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