President Obama just finished delivering a eulogy for his late friend, state senator Clementa Pinckney, who was killed last week in Charleston. You should watch the entire thing.
“We are here today to remember a man of God who lived by faith,” Obama said as he began the speech before a crowd of approximately 5,000 people at the Charleston college arena. “Sometimes I think that’s the best thing to hope for...to just say somebody was a good man.”
Blinded by hatred, the alleged killer could not see the grace surrounding Reverend Pinckney and that Bible study group. The light of love that shone as they opened the church doors and invited a stranger to join in their prayer circle. The alleged killer could have never anticipated the way the families of the fallen would respond when they saw him in court, in the midst of unspeakable grief, with words of forgiveness. He couldn’t imagine that.
During the 40-minute eulogy, Obama spoke frankly about race relations and gun control, saying, “It would be a betrayal of everything Reverend Pinckney stood for, I believe, if we allowed ourselves to slip into a comfortable silence again.”
History can’t be a sword to justify injustice or a shield against progress, but must be a manual to avoid repeating mistakes of our past.
Relegating the Confederate flag—a symbol of “systemic oppression and racial subjugation”—to the past is part of that progress, he said.
For too long we were blind to the pain that the Confederate flag stirred in too many of our citizens. It’s true, a flag did not cause these murders. But as people from all walks of life, Republicans and Democrats now acknowledge — including Gov. Haley, whose recent eloquence on the subject is worthy of praise — we all have to acknowledge the flag has always represented more than just ancestral pride.
For many, black and white, that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation. We see that now removing the flag from this state’s Capitol would not be an act of political correctness, it would not be an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers, it would simply be an acknowledgment that the cause for which they fought, the cause of slavery, was wrong.
The imposition of Jim Crow after the Civil War, the resistance to civil rights for all people, was wrong. It would be one step in an honest accounting of America’s history. A modest but meaningful balm for so many unhealed wounds. It would be an expression of the amazing changes that have transformed this state and this country for the better because of the work of so many people of good will. People of all races striving to form a more perfect union. By taking down that flag we express God’s grace.
He ended the speech with a choir-backed rendition of “Amazing Grace” before reading the names of the nine victims, who he said “were living by faith when they died.”
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