President Obama uses the emotional power of song to help people overcome the pain of those lost.
President Obama honored the lives lost in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church massacre at the funeral of one of its victims, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney.
Obama knew Pinckney personally and delivered a stirring eulogy.
The speech was fantastic. It wasn't just about life, death, and the painful circumstances that took Pinckney's life. It also spoke to many of the struggles we have as a country when it comes to race and class and everything in between.
Toward the end, he started speaking about the amazing grace of those who had lost their lives. The grace all of us need to move forward. And of course, the grace of the one man they had come to honor:
"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.
If we can tap that grace, everything can change."
After those words, he paused and said, "Amazing grace." Then he paused again, for what seemed like an eternity.
Then he did something I've never seen a president do. He sang.
That's right. The president of the United States started to sing "Amazing Grace."
His voice wasn't perfect. In fact it was a little wobbly and out of tune. But that wasn't the point. Obama was using music to say and do what words alone could not.
And it worked. The entire church rose to join him.
It was pretty breathtaking. Watch it:
And it wasn't just the church that was moved to tears.
The history of "Amazing Grace" makes this moment all the more moving.
The moment was one for the history books.
It brought together so much — the history, the pain, the hope, and the unity of a country ready to honor the lives lost by moving forward and fighting to make the world a better, safer place. All with a sprinkle of amazing grace.
If you'd like to watch the entire eulogy, you can do so below. (Or click the transcript button below to read it.)
You can learn more about the lives of Pinckney, the Rev. Sharonda Singleton, Ethel Lance, Tywanza Sanders, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Myra Thompson, the Rev. Daniel Simmons, and the Rev. Depayne Middleton here.