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Published:June 27th, 2015 11:56 EST

Obama's Finest Moment: He Sings 'Amazing Grace' in Eulogy

By Robert Paul Reyes

"President Obama gave a rousing speech Friday at the funeral of state Sen. and Rev. Clementa Pinckney, one of nine people shot at Emanuel AME church in Charleston, S.C., earlier this month.


The president spoke for more than 35 minutes about the reverend`s legacy and teachings, and Obama said that he had spent much of the week reflecting on grace.

The man accused in the shootings, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, "failed to comprehend what Rev. Pinckney so well understood: the power of God`s grace," Obama said. He also praised the victims` families for responding to Roof in court "in the midst of unspeakable grief with words of forgiveness."

He ended his eulogy with a song -- he led the attendees in part of  `Amazing Grace,` at first alone and a cappella, then joined by the crowd."


Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

`Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
`Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

Obama touched on many sensitive subjects during his eulogy for state Sen. And Rev. Clementa Pinkey (the Confederate flag, gun violence, racism), but the overarching theme of his speech was Gods` grace, indeed the theme of these past few days in America has been amazing grace.

This week we witnessed the amazing grace of the families of the victims of the Charleston church massacre, they countered the rage and racism of Dylann Roof with forgiveness and love. The terrorist thug hoped that his massacre would spark a race war, but it had the opposite effect: It brought together Americans of all races and political persuasions on a mission from God to ban the Confederate flag from state buildings not only in South Carolina, but throughout the South. It strengthened the resolve of Americans to fight racism in all of its guises, and to fight to form a more perfect union.

On the same day that Obama delivered his amazing eulogy, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have a right to marry anywhere in the United States, an amazing and historic culmination of decades of litigation over gay marriage and gay and lesbian rights generally. From now on there will no longer be same-sex marriage, or opposite-sex marriage, there will only be marriage open to all couples regardless of sexual orientation.

Sometimes Obama sounds professorial as if he is delivering a lecture to university students, but Friday he sounded like a Baptist preacher. Obama deftly captured the cadences and rhythms of the black church, and his eulogy/sermon was often interrupted by the congregation with shouts of "Amen", and by the organist with organ interludes.

I am a ferocious proponent of the separation of church and state, and I have often criticized presidents for interjecting religion in politics, but Friday Obama`s religious zeal felt right. The nation`s Pastor-in-Chief roused the spirits of the congregation celebrating the life of the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, and he buoyed the spirits of the American public.

I voted for Obama in 2007, but his administration has been a bitter disappointment for reasons too numerous to mention now, and besides I don`t want to distract from his amazing speech. For one amazing day Obama lived up to his promises of hope and change.

Obama`s amazing sermon culminated with a heartfelt rendition of "Amazing Grace", the president has been known to sing a note or two of a pop song on occasion, but nobody expected him to sing the Gospel standard.

What an amazing day of grace, what an amazing week, and what an amazing country we live in.

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