President Obama Eulogizes Charleston Pastor As One Who Understood Grace. In Singing Amazing Grace POTUS Hit E Flat The Blackest Blues Note Ever.

[NYT] CHARLESTON, S.C. — In one of his presidency’s most impassioned reflections on race, President Obama eulogized the Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney on Friday by calling on the nation to emulate the grace that he displayed in his work and that the people of South Carolina demonstrated after the massacre of nine worshipers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.


Before nearly 6,000 mourners and a worldwide television audience, Mr. Obama, who met Mr. Pinckney during his first presidential campaign, placed the shootings in the context of America’s long history of violence against African-Americans. He also reiterated his plea to restrict the availability of firearms and called for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the State House in Columbia.


Mr. Obama thrilled the mostly African-American audience by preaching with revivalist cadences, and by closing his 40-minute address by singing, in solo, the opening refrain of “Amazing Grace.” The crowd came to its feet and joined in, leading the Rev. Norvel Goff, a presiding elder in the A.M.E. church, to later “thank the Reverend President.”


“Maybe we now realize the way racial bias can infect us even when we don’t realize it,” Mr. Obama said as Mr. Pinckney’s coffin, draped in a blanket of red roses, sat before him. “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 treating every child as important regardless of skin color and by opening up opportunities for all Americans, Mr. Obama said, “We express God’s grace.”


As the nation’s first African-American president, Mr. Obama has often struggled to find the proper balance of timing, words and place to speak about America’s racial divisions. Intent on being seen as a president for all and confronted with what he saw as the more urgent economic crisis, he approached racially charged disputes cautiously in his first term.


But politically unfettered after his re-election in 2012, and angered by the racially motivated killings in Charleston and the deaths of black men at the hands of white police officers, the president on Friday dispensed with his usual reticence, rediscovered the soaring rhetoric that inspired his supporters in 2008, and spoke with unusual — and occasionally acerbic — directness. “For too long,” Mr. Obama said, “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.”



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