Barack Obama sings Amazing Grace
June 26, 2015 5:27 PM   Subscribe

While delivering the eulogy for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the South Carolina state senator and pastor who was among those killed at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston last week, Barack Obama sang Amazing Grace (C-Span). From in the congregation. posted by Wordshore (108 comments total) 98 users marked this as a favorite
 
That was so life affirming and so forcefully optimistic for the future. Well done, Mr. President.
posted by lydhre at 5:29 PM on June 26, 2015 [16 favorites]


I heard about this on the radio when I was out running errands earlier.

-audio of Obama speaking-
-reporter saying a thing-
-more audio of Obama-
-reporter: And then, something never heard before from a US president-
-audio of Obama starting to sing Amazing Grace and audience joining in-
-me crying in car-
posted by hippybear at 5:32 PM on June 26, 2015 [42 favorites]


I watched about 20 seconds of that and started bawling.
posted by marxchivist at 5:32 PM on June 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


It's been a real weepy day for me today, is all I'll say. That eulogy was amazing.
posted by yasaman at 5:38 PM on June 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Guy knows how to market himself, I'll give him that.
posted by darksasami at 5:40 PM on June 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


I love our President. I just love him. And I'm trying to savor and appreciate every remaining minute of his term.
posted by bearwife at 5:40 PM on June 26, 2015 [73 favorites]


Another masterful piece of speechifying from Barry O.
posted by wemayfreeze at 5:40 PM on June 26, 2015


I'm really digging this Obama. I'm looking forward to him knocking everything out of the park for the next year or so.
posted by nevercalm at 5:42 PM on June 26, 2015 [14 favorites]


The entire speech was incredibly thoughtful and moving, and I hope the most important points from it don't get lost behind the novelty of the President singing.

Here is a link to the full Eulogy.
posted by anastasiav at 5:48 PM on June 26, 2015 [36 favorites]


the looks on the people's faces behind him are exactly how I felt watching this.
posted by KGMoney at 5:52 PM on June 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


I was sitting in a lobby waiting to go into a thing while the speech was on. I couldn't see the tv and could only sort of hear it, and I was reading that other thread on Metafilter. And then he started singing, the hymn that we sing at funerals and at the bedsides of the sick and dying and at prayer vigils and at protests. And he sang well and sincerely. And I got chills and I cried. And then I thought again about how preposterous it is that so many people hate this man.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:53 PM on June 26, 2015 [56 favorites]


just the black notes...
posted by kliuless at 5:55 PM on June 26, 2015 [12 favorites]


darksasami, I'm far from Obama's biggest supporter, but to insist that in that particular moment the man was "marketing" himself seems to me a failure of empathy on some grand scale.
posted by allthinky at 5:56 PM on June 26, 2015 [157 favorites]


That was beautiful. The whole day has been just awash in tears.
posted by mittens at 5:57 PM on June 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm looking forward to him knocking everything out of the park for the next year or so.

Indeed. Healthcare, gay marriage, Bin Laden ... there's still way more time for legacy. You also wonder if some Court justices are going to retire.

Moreover, he's poised to have a significant post-Presidency.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:59 PM on June 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


Guy knows how to market himself, I'll give him that.

Yeah, can we not do this? Obama is giving a eulogy here, a very sincere one for someone he knew and respected. To call it "marketing" is a failure of empathy, and unkind to the memory of Reverend Pinckney and all those who are mourning him.
posted by yasaman at 6:00 PM on June 26, 2015 [169 favorites]


That was a brilliant and profoundly human piece of statesmanship. He literally used his pulpit (at the pulpit) to speak and sing from the heart. I've got a lot of problems with the games he has had to play to get to where he is, but no doubt at all that he, like all of us, spends a great deal of time at war with his conscience and better nature. He has spent 6 years with one of the most morally compromised jobs in the world and I do believe he is trying to do right by his compass. I'm crying.
posted by Divine_Wino at 6:05 PM on June 26, 2015 [44 favorites]


Wow. How fucking low, to call a man's eulogy of a friend a marketing ploy.
posted by palomar at 6:06 PM on June 26, 2015 [96 favorites]


The whole speech. The whole speech. "Amazing Grace" was lovely, but the whole eulogy.
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:09 PM on June 26, 2015 [14 favorites]


The thing that sells this for me is that the organ doesn't come in until after a couple of bars. I imagine the organist was slightly in shock.

As he mentioned during his interview with Marc Maron (covered in two other MeFi threads), he's had to give far too many speeches like this during his administration. But this one was one for the history books.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 6:11 PM on June 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


I've tried to watch this three times and I start bawling within seconds every time. I tried to sing this at my own mother's funeral and couldn't even bring myself to stand up. I think Obama struggled for a minute before getting up the nerve to do it. The response of the people behind him and the congregation is so wonderful, so human, such a celebration of a beloved person.

What a day.
posted by annathea at 6:20 PM on June 26, 2015 [12 favorites]


It moved me profoundly, and I'm an atheist. Barack Obama has disappointed me in many ways, but I love and respect him as I never have any of the other American presidents of my lifetime, nor any other head of state I can think of.
posted by orange swan at 6:22 PM on June 26, 2015 [99 favorites]


I can't watch bc the mere thought makes me verklempt.

I know he has done things I don't agree with, but he's done so much to make things better for a lot of ordinary people.

I think he is sincere in a way many presidents have not been. I think that he's had to make many decisions he has not agreed with.

I'd vote for him again if I could.
posted by sio42 at 6:24 PM on June 26, 2015 [22 favorites]


The only thing that matters is how the people in that church felt, how the people of that city felt, how you felt. How the haters feel is of absolutely no consequence at all.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:26 PM on June 26, 2015 [19 favorites]


A perfect match of the moment and the man.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:27 PM on June 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


The entire eulogy was one of the most powerful speeches I've heard, from a man who is a noted for being a giver of powerful speeches. The message of hope and redemption delivered like thunder, like a preacher calling you up to be saved (and I'm an atheist like whoa). Profoundly moving and I can't urge you strongly enough to watch the whole speech when you have time. What a day.
posted by peachfuzz at 6:28 PM on June 26, 2015 [14 favorites]


I can't say it often enough tonight! - do make time to watch Obama's eulogy in full.
"Amazing Grace" was a lovely, awesome soundbite but the whole speech is so powerful, and very moving.

Autostraddle's description:
This afternoon President Obama delivered a eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the South Carolina state senator and pastor who was murdered along with nine other people at a Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Church in Charleston last week. In the stunning speech, the president touched on gun control, the poverty cycle, the pandemic of police officers committing acts of racist violence, America’s embedded legacy of racism, the failures of the United States’ criminal justice system, the terror of the Confederate flag, and so much more. He ended his eulogy by singing “Amazing Grace” and naming the victims of the attack. Susie Jackson. Rev Daniel Simmons. Ethel Lance. Myra Thompson. Cynthia Hurd. Rev Depayne Middleton-Doctor. Rev Sharonda Coleman-Singleton. Tywanza Sanders.
posted by flex at 6:29 PM on June 26, 2015 [14 favorites]


Another non theist here that thought it was a very moving event.

I fully understand political dislike and disagreement, but hellbegone do I get angry at the sheer level of just stupid, personal attacks that have been leveled against Obama.
posted by edgeways at 6:32 PM on June 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


That was just extraordinary on so many levels. Christ.
posted by AdamCSnider at 6:34 PM on June 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Pissed off Obama is the best Obama. What a great speech.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 6:36 PM on June 26, 2015 [24 favorites]


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

Thank you, Mr. President.
posted by SPrintF at 6:41 PM on June 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


He calls on us to be better even at this moment. There's little finer one could say.
posted by bonehead at 6:41 PM on June 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


I was really pissed off yesterday about Fast Track (and I still am), but I'm really glad someone put this up in an FPP so I can give credit where it is most definitely due.

That was not just a good speech and a solid sermon on the theme of grace, it was extremely gutsy. He did not pull any punches talking about how the great "cause" of the Confederacy was the maintenance of a system of oppression and that that was just wrong, as was the Jim Crow that followed. It was a masterful piece of political leadership. We knew he had it in him. It was good to see it on display.
posted by mondo dentro at 6:42 PM on June 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


flex: “I can't say it often enough tonight! - do make time to watch Obama's eulogy in full . ”
I can't agree with this enough. I'm watching Maddow, and she said she "moved heaven and earth" to air the eulogy in full without commercial interruption tonight. It's funny that I watched it earlier on the computer, but I guess I was distracted or the small window and speakers just didn't do it justice. Now I'm sitting here watching it on my TV with tears in my eyes.
posted by ob1quixote at 6:43 PM on June 26, 2015 [15 favorites]


previous obama singing
posted by poffin boffin at 6:44 PM on June 26, 2015


... I don't know if any other president has so blantently said those things he said. The Confederacy was wrong, gun violence is a big problem, police brutality is wrong... And so on.
posted by edgeways at 7:14 PM on June 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


You are denying yourself a real experience if you just watch the Amazing Grace singing without watching the rest of the eulogy which it capped.

It was an amazing demonstration of some of the features that differentiate black and white churches even today, such as the organist punctuating key statements and the enthusiastic audience participation. And the way song is used enthusiastically and spontaneously.

I'm an atheist, a contrarian, and a curmudgeon who hasn't believed in things like grace for a very long time. But I think I had a little lint in my eye by the end of that eulogy. Dayumm that man can speechify.
posted by Bringer Tom at 7:23 PM on June 26, 2015 [42 favorites]


[folks, there's an open thread to discuss the actual shooting. Please try to keep this reasonably separated, if possible. Thanks! ]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:33 PM on June 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Add me as another atheist moved to tears by just the song and the response of the congregation. I've read the entire speech and it's powerful on the page. I'm not sure I can handle listening to the whole thing today. My little heart has already swelled three sizes today and hearing my president tell it like it is may be too much.
posted by immlass at 7:36 PM on June 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


I hadn't cried all day, not even with the SCOTUS ruling, but now...now, I'm crying. What a day.
posted by Ragini at 7:44 PM on June 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Man, I usually cringe when that song starts but I just immediately teared up. Looking forward to his long post-presidency activism.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:46 PM on June 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Here's hoping Roof has had to watch this dozens of times by now.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:49 PM on June 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


i read earlier that he wrote the eulogy himself? even if that's not true, he's amazing at his craft, and to use it so lovingly here, yeah, totally moved to tears. i'm not religious, but i don't think you have to be to get his message.
posted by nadawi at 7:54 PM on June 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


My president CAN SING.
posted by blurker at 8:04 PM on June 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm also an atheist, at times a pretty strident one, but this moved me. Not just the singing, the whole thing. Obama is a charismatic guy, but he's not fantastic at faking it, so when he starts into something he really cares about, like this, it's very noticeably honest and passionate. I even liked the directly religious references, they seem to me to be pretty representative about what can be good about religion.

(Speakers who came after him were calling him "The Reverend President", and yeah, he really got into that preacher cadence and style. I think it suits him, actually. He's got a knack for it.)
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:13 PM on June 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


As is probably noted in some of Wordshore's links, the text of Amazing Grace was written by a slave-trader turned abolitionist and is interpreted by some as referring partly to his remorse and repentance about the sin of slave-trading.
posted by straight at 8:28 PM on June 26, 2015 [22 favorites]


peachfuzz: "The entire eulogy was one of the most powerful speeches I've heard, from a man who is a noted for being a giver of powerful speeches. "

And within the context of Christian theology, black church history, and American history, it's a powerfully amazing speech. Like "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" amazing.
"He embodied the idea that our Christian faith demands deeds and not just words, that the sweet hour of prayer actually lasts the whole week long, that to put our faith in action is more than just individual salvation, it’s about our collective salvation, that to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and house the homeless is not just a call for isolated charity but the imperative of a just society."
I have to give this whole long section:
"The church is and always has been the center of African American life, a place to call our own in a too-often hostile world, a sanctuary from so many hardships. Over the course of centuries, black churches served as hush harbors, where slaves could worship in safety, praise houses, where their free descendants could gather and shout "Hallelujah!" ... rest stops for the weary along the Underground Railroad, bunkers for the foot soldiers of the Civil Rights movement. They have been and continue to [be] community centers, where we organize for jobs and justice, places of scholarship and network[ing], places where children are loved and fed and kept out of harm's way and told that they are beautiful and smart and taught that they matter.

That’s what happens in church. That’s what the black church means — our beating heart, the place where our dignity as a people is inviolate.

There’s no better example of this tradition than Mother Emanuel, a church built by blacks seeking liberty, burned to the ground because its founders sought to end slavery, only to rise up again, a phoenix from these ashes. When there were laws banning all-black church gatherers, services happened here anyway in defiance of unjust laws. When there was a righteous movement to dismantle Jim Crow, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached from its pulpit, and marches began from its steps.

A sacred place, this church, not just for blacks, not just for Christians but for every American who cares about the steady expansion of human rights and human dignity in this country, a foundation stone for liberty and justice for all.

That’s what the church meant.

We do not know whether the killer of Reverend Pinckney and eight others knew all of this history, but he surely sensed the meaning of his violent act. It was an act that drew on a long history of bombs and arson and shots fired at churches, not random but as a means of control, a way to terrorize and oppress ... an act that he imagined would incite fear and recrimination, violence and suspicion, an act that he presumed would deepen divisions that trace back to our nation’s original sin.
The Confederate flag, contextualized:
For too long, we were blind to the pain that the Confederate Flag stirred into 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 Governor Haley, whose recent eloquence on the subject is worthy of praise ... as 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 capital would not be an act of political correctness. It would not an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers. It would simply be acknowledgement 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 goodwill, people of all races, striving to form a more perfect union.

By taking down that flag, we express God’s grace.
It's a love letter to America, it's a love letter to the Civil Rights movement, and it's a love letter to the South, without flinching a bit from the violent, racist history of the South. He makes a call for peace, tolerance, and even gun control within the context of affirming how the South helped build a better, more just America. Not "the South and Republicans are terrible" that Northerners and Democrats so often go for, but "slavery was an evil thing, Jim Crow was an evil thing, they were unequivocally bad, but you helped set it right here in Charleston, and that was expressed through the amazing wave of love in the wake of these shootings, where everyone rejected the killer's call for a race war, because you, South Carolina (of all states!), show "the amazing changes that have transformed this state and this country for the better because of the work of so many people of goodwill, people of all races, striving to form a more perfect union."" It is a great speech, and the deliberate theological echoes of St. Paul and Dr. King are fantastic.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:33 PM on June 26, 2015 [137 favorites]


I know this is gonna cause full breakdown ugly cry, so I'm waiting for a bit of privacy. What a bittersweet day.

.........
posted by Space Kitty at 8:35 PM on June 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


I know there are many reasons to be critical. It's impossible to be a perfect president. It's an imperfect job for an imperfect democracy.

But Obama never claimed perfection. He has always stood by the idea that our job isn't to perfect anything, but to make it better -- I've never seen a politician who takes the idea of creating a "more perfect union" more seriously. It's a motif he returns to again and again, most recently today, in discussing our newly just laws regarding marriage.

But, oh my goodness, here was a perfect moment. And in response to something so terrible, it's really something to see something so beautiful. It's been a bad year. It was time to see what it can look like when things are good and right.

This was a good week.
posted by maxsparber at 8:38 PM on June 26, 2015 [23 favorites]


When we've been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun...
posted by unknowncommand at 8:44 PM on June 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


A wonderful act. But sadly he wouldn't have allowed himself to do this in his first term. Looks way too black for too many Americans.
posted by wilful at 8:46 PM on June 26, 2015


Just...holy hot damn. That is one of the most remarkable things I have ever seen.

What makes this really something is that he doesn't really nail the singing. It feels like a genuinely courageous thing he's doing. Knowing he's not going to sound the best but being moved to do it anyway. It has the potential to be incredibly awkward, but he carries it and you can feel the choir and the congregation going with him.

I cannot imagine any former president or any of the candidates vying to replace him doing anything like that. In the way that Churchill thought he had been destined to lead Britain during WWII, it almost feels like Obama was destined to be the President in that church today.
posted by dry white toast at 8:50 PM on June 26, 2015 [44 favorites]


I cannot think of the last time we had such a powerful and public proclamation of the Christian faith and the role of the church in American life from a sitting president. And surely this is the most visible demonstration of black forms spirituality ever on the national scene. No one else could have done this--only Obama.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:05 PM on June 26, 2015 [20 favorites]


To call it "marketing" is a failure of empathy, and unkind to the memory of Reverend Pinckney and all those who are mourning him.

The potential political ramifications of every move the president makes are exactingly calculated before he does anything, appearing at funerals included. That can be true at the same time that one observes that he is "giving a eulogy here, a very sincere one for someone he knew and respected." Obama knows from experience that his base loves it when he sings -- see this thread.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 9:06 PM on June 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


blurker: "My president CAN SING."

The President can give a moving and uplifting speech, this one in particular including the Amazing Grace, but as for the actual singing, he should keep his day job.
posted by AugustWest at 9:06 PM on June 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


The organ is what takes it over the top for me. That organist just jumping in as he sings, and then continuing through the end, through all the names.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:06 PM on June 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Eyebrows, I was thinking much the same listening to this. I can absolutely see myself replaying this speech again in years to come much like many of MLK's speeches. My daughter is far too young to understand it now, but I would love to play it for her in the future. I suspect it will still resonate much like "I have been to the mountain top" from the sanitation workers strike or as you point out "Letter from a Birmingham jail."
posted by MrBobaFett at 9:23 PM on June 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, he called Marilynne Robinson a friend of his, which is pretty damn cool.
posted by neroli at 9:26 PM on June 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


Today I feel again the way I felt when Obama was elected.
posted by jokeefe at 9:45 PM on June 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'm also interested in the idea of Mother Churches (Jerusalem, Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, and Rome, for Catholics), which are important founding churches that nourish and protect their children ... if we think about churches and other religious buildings that helped midwife America into being -- "Mother Emanuel AME" is definitely one. The Old North Church in Boston definitely. Maybe the Mormon temple at Nauvoo? What else would you name? (Not just the first and oldest, but the churches/temples/mosques/etc. that helped make America into itself.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:56 PM on June 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


I don't want to watch this because I know it's going to charm me and I don't want to be charmed. Obama is like that great boyfriend who always says the right things and you keep thinking, soon, as soon as he can, he's going to start doing everything I need him to do. As soon as the election's over we're going to see the Real Obama, etc. Is this it? The Real Obama makes amazing speeches and gives fantastic interviews and that's all we get? I know this thread is all about tears and so forth but I don't have some kind of anti-Obama agenda. Just some part of me always feels foolish when I fall for it.
posted by bleep at 10:03 PM on June 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


This dude has regularly disappointed me over the last six amazing years, but you know what? I really like him. Sue me.
posted by TheTingTangTong at 10:03 PM on June 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


so human
posted by ouke at 10:14 PM on June 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Watched all of the eulogy. Man, he is something special. I was also taken by the reactions of the large group of preachers sitting alongside President Obama. Their smiles and tears, the nodding heads in assent were also very moving. You could feel the love, the power of the Holy Spirit some might even say. And has noted by several previous comments upthread you don't even have to be Christian to feel that power and that love the President's words brought to this service. Heck, you can be a downright atheist and still feel it.

It annoys be no end that a large section of white conservative Christians in America, and elsewhere, give their theology such a bad name. Their hatred and bigotry is nothing like the Christianity I experienced growing up. Thoroughly lapsed and non-practicing now, but when I see something as powerful and moving as that eulogy that is unmistakably Christian in outlook, something distant stirs inside of me.

[Does anyone have a link to what happened after the eulogy? Looked on YouTube but understandably all links seem to point to the President's eulogy.]
posted by vac2003 at 10:19 PM on June 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


All day, I knew to wait until I was in bed to watch it, because I knew I would cry. To go from this morning's celebration of joy to this afternoon's celebration of a life by mourning ... it would rip me in half. He's so strong.

Today was really important. I'm glad I was Present.
posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 10:20 PM on June 26, 2015


Politics sucks. It brings out the worst in people. Even people like Obama who have their heart in the right place. And for people like me who would like to see someone knocking heads and just making shit right, it is very easy to be infuriated by Obama's political incrementalism.

It's especially easy to get disillusioned when the right acts as if he is acting the way I'd love him to act. But in the end, like all of us, he's muddling through as best he can, trying to achieve his goals in the way that seems best from where he sits.

Thankfully, he doesn't get brought down by the criticism he takes from all sides, and just keeps on keeping on. It beats the hell out of the constant triangulation most other politicians are engaged in. On days like today, you can feel the sincerity. It warms the cockles of my heart. Maybe that makes me too uncynical to live in modern society, but so be it.
posted by wierdo at 10:23 PM on June 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


Please don't call this "marketing" or "calculated." To do so does this eulogy and the people it honors a severe disservice.

Obama started the speech as President Obama. As it proceeded along, he started to let show the man who spent a lot of time in black churches, who knew his way around a pulpit and a sermon, and he slipped comfortably into the role of a fellow churchgoer. You can't calculate that, not the way he did it. He was feeling at home, another service in church, and it pulled him out of the formal eulogy and into a soaring lesson to honor the man who was laying in a casket nearby. And it was a wonderful thing, because that is what Emmanuel needed. There is no other president who could have stepped into that role and do what he did there.

Plus, a murderer killed with the aim of terrorizing the black community, and the response was a eulogy delivered by a black president of the United States. The killer will fade into obscurity, and Emmanuel will continue on.
posted by azpenguin at 10:25 PM on June 26, 2015 [61 favorites]


vac2003: “Does anyone have a link to what happened after the eulogy? Looked on YouTube but understandably all links seem to point to the President's eulogy.”
I think the White House YouTube account uploaded a video of the majority of a ceremony. The President is introduced at 1:21:00 in that video. It went on another 10 or 15 minutes or so after the end of the eulogy.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:40 PM on June 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


I sincerely, truly, vehemently hope that this speech is taught in schools someday.
posted by flyingsquirrel at 10:47 PM on June 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


"Obama started the speech as President Obama. As it proceeded along, he started to let show the man who spent a lot of time in black churches, who knew his way around a pulpit and a sermon, and he slipped comfortably into the role of a fellow churchgoer."

Obama's speech after Treyvon Martin was killed, which Ta-Nehisi Coates hated but I liked, was an example of President Obama speaking in careful and measured fashion to white America, using language and metaphors that would hit home with "soccer moms" and help white Americans understand, at least a little, why black Americans were so upset (I think he succeeded; TNC was disappointed by his choice of audience).

This speech is a black American speaking the language of black Americans within a black church context and we white people are privileged to hear it as we have heard very few black American speakers on the national stage since MLK was killed -- Jesse Jackson, maybe, or TD Jakes. Peter Storey is white but preaches very movingly on South African apartheid (he was in of the architects of its fall, along with Nelson Mandela and Bishop Tutu) and its relation to Southern American civil rights (where he was resident for many years). This is a literally unique opportunity to hear a black president speaking from within his shared history and experience to a black congregation, with cameras rolling so we can all listen in. This is eavesdropping of the highest, most educational order. This is a truly unique chance for allies to listen and hear and learn.

And it's a unique chance for Americans generally to hear and see this eulogy and say, "Yeah, that sounds like what I believe ... We have got to do more to fix this."
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:59 PM on June 26, 2015 [70 favorites]


Yeah I think the great aspect of this speech (I'm about 2/3 of the way through as I type) is that he isn't speaking as a president. He's speaking as a goddamn leader. It's an opportunity to shed that veneer of presidency and speak to his community. As good a president as he is, he's better as a civil rights activist and as a community leader.
posted by jimmythefish at 11:35 PM on June 26, 2015


Maybe, just maybe, some people here could for once conceive the idea that this. Isn't. About them. It's not about how they cnceive of the president. Maybe they could listen.
posted by happyroach at 11:41 PM on June 26, 2015 [19 favorites]


all the people using this as an opportunity to say "hes disappointed me but..." really depress me. Here is an incredibly real, powerful moment from a human being, possibly a historical moment in american history, and you want to interrupt this to tell everyone that his ideas on international trade policy differ from yours. How about for the sake of the dead and the importance of the words, we give it a damn day.
posted by young_son at 11:49 PM on June 26, 2015 [22 favorites]


This was powerful, and made even more so by flowing from what he described as an open heart. A very human, very moving moment.
posted by flippant at 11:53 PM on June 26, 2015


“President Obama Took Me To Church Today,” Greg Howard, Deadspin, 26 June 2015
posted by ob1quixote at 12:07 AM on June 27, 2015 [12 favorites]


This was just amazing and powerful. I wish I had better words to describe it...

(And hooray for Rachel Maddow for showing the entire speech on her show tonight. Definitely a pay-full-attention moment.)
posted by SisterHavana at 12:43 AM on June 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


@ob1quixote
I think the White House YouTube account uploaded a video of the majority of a ceremony. The President is introduced at 1:21:00 in that video. It went on another 10 or 15 minutes or so after the end of the eulogy.

Thank you for this, it was exactly what I was looking for. There is something wonderfully human (I can't think of any other word) in much of the ordinariness that follows the eulogy. People just trying to get the mundane details of who leaves when and in which order just right. Not quite herding cats but just quite frustrating - "We have been beautiful all day", says one of the Bishops. And then the choir cuts loose, a-swaying amongst the genial anarchy of the post-service leavings. The 'Reverend'President Obama is naturally the center of attention and who can say otherwise. Just wonderful.
posted by vac2003 at 1:33 AM on June 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


It is strange to watch the president speak and realize he is sort of, but also sort of not, speaking to me. It is an educational sort of weird, but it also points out how I don't always make the "united" states a decent place. It is weirdly refreshing to be not the primary audience for a presidential speech.

i feel like I should be watching this. but that I am also intruding on someone else's private moments.

edit- anyway it is a wonderful speech, and if the only reason to give a speech is to change the world, then I feel that this is a speech worth giving.
posted by Hicksu at 1:33 AM on June 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


[One comment deleted. This is really less a wide-open "complain-about-Obama and/or 'the left'" post, than a post about this specific eulogy. If you want to criticize his politics, the left, and TPP, maybe any of the open TPP threads, or even this interview thread where that is already being discussed is a better spot. Thanks.]
posted by taz (staff) at 2:44 AM on June 27, 2015 [9 favorites]


I watched the eulogy with all of my co-workers yesterday. We took a brief break from celebrating marriage equality, and all gathered to listen and watch. And when the President started to sing, all of the sudden, everyone in the room was singing, too. It made me proud to work where I work, and proud to be where I am.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:07 AM on June 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


A powerful speech, a moving eulogy and a call to arms (figuratively).
He seems to be very determined to be a quite agile duck in his last two years of presidency.
This is good.
posted by ojemine at 3:08 AM on June 27, 2015


I would think the organist needed a moment or two to figure out what key would be closest -- you can hear that Obama is a little out (as anyone would be) and there's a slight shift to lock on to the pitch of the organ when it gets going.

Also this was extremely moving, but you don't need me to tell you that.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:09 AM on June 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Agree with Stephen; very moving.

The U.S. can be hard to understand outside in though.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 4:00 AM on June 27, 2015


This was so moving. As an outsider to US politics my views are probably superficial. But the feeling I always got about Obama, that I never felt about any other US President in my lifetime, is that he is intrinsically a good man. Human and flawed like everyone, but good.
posted by billiebee at 6:22 AM on June 27, 2015 [8 favorites]


What a wonderful, moving, powerful and needed speech.

This is not a man heading for the door. This is not a church dying through irrelevance and fatigue. These are not people who are worn out through struggle, ready to accept a world that refuses to give them justice.

Obama is saying - we have done so much through grace, and there is so much more to do, and grace is the gift that will let us do it. The killing of good people shows why; their life shows how. Well then, we shall.

There are plenty of people who say they believe in God, but not in the church. I'm the opposite. I don't believe in a creator God that causes us to be and exists outside ourselves. I do believe in the god that we create, as an exemplar of our larger selves - in all ways, good and bad - and that brings into existence our abilities to direct our thoughts and actions towards that which we know to be better. It isn't the only way to do this, but it is a very powerful and universal force, and like all powerful forces it has dangers. But it is ours, given to us whether we deserve it or not, and it demands to be used in the best possible way.

Faith in things unseen. Knowing you will not get all that is promised, and carrying on anyway. These are not things that require a precise adherence to a detailed theology, but if one helps you to build your life as you wish it to be lived, then take it joyfully and with care. It's for you to do just that.

This eulogy shows religion in the service of humanity. It had not one whiff of cynicism, of grandstanding, of bullying, of self-justification, of thou shalt not. I hope every religious leader in the world sees it.

The Reverend President. How on earth does that phrase seem so fitting, so right and so full of promise, even to those who - like me - regard any form of theocracy as fearsome and corrupting?

It is an astonishing thing. Obama is, truly, an astonishing man. America, you are lucky to have him, and I hope his best days will come when he is once again, to use a loaded phrase with care, a free man.
posted by Devonian at 6:39 AM on June 27, 2015 [41 favorites]


Romny sitting at home:

I could totally do that.
posted by mattoxic at 7:16 AM on June 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


I wish I'd been there for the whole service. Did I hear one of the CNN commentators say Obama came in clapping? Just seeing what there was on TV gave me goosebumps and I get them again every time I think of it.
posted by BibiRose at 7:57 AM on June 27, 2015


I loved the speech for many, many reasons, including a feeling of being gifted with a chance to see this amazing community at such a raw and important time. One thing that struck me about the Eulegy itself was the fact that he didn't mention Jesus once. How do you stand in a Christian church and talk about a slain religious leader and about the Grace that can flow out of his death, and not mention Jesus? Is this just a part of my expectations because I attend a very, very different (white and liberal) church, or would this have struck those in the congregation as odd too?
posted by TheShadowKnows at 8:07 AM on June 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Interesting question. It might have to do mainly with Obama's personal faith, and I can't remember from Dreams of My Father how specific he got about his own Christian theology--not terribly, if I remember. It might have to do with expectations for an AME sermon, and I can't judge that either. I think there was a strong implicit acknowledgement of New Testament ethics and the notion of a "suffering servant" in Obama's remarks. I also know that as yet another of the nontheist MeFites who was moved to the point of tears by the eulogy, it probably would have detracted a bit from my ability to say "amen" to most of the speech if he had thrown a lot of "in Jesus' name" language in there. It was certainly a Christian speech but nonsectarian enough, I should think, for a large body of believers and nonbelievers to identify with. I think he brilliantly walked the tightrope between the expections and needs of the Emmanuel congregation and the larger worldwide audience that might not feel comfortable with a full-blown AME sermon.
posted by Creosote at 11:19 AM on June 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


Here is an incredibly real, powerful moment from a human being, possibly a historical moment in american history, and you want to interrupt this to tell everyone that his ideas on international trade policy differ from yours. How about for the sake of the dead and the importance of the words, we give it a damn day.

It's not about "ideas on international trade policy". It's about the dead. Who gave the eulogy at Abdulrahman al-Awlaki's funeral?

So: there's the Moment, and there's the Context. In the Moment, a black man is commemorating the life of a friend, gunned down horrifically in a racist act of terrorism. That's potent, and no person can be criticized for finding that resonant as a moment. In the Context, however, we see a different story. The victim is still dead. The hate crime is still there. But the eulogy is delivered by a man who has, himself, ordered a significant number of racialized terrorist killings.

"the clip made me feel something, shut up" is not really the rock-solid response to "guy knows how to market himself" that people appear to think it is.
posted by threeants at 11:21 AM on June 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


Why can't it be both?
posted by Apocryphon at 11:28 AM on June 27, 2015


It's hard to have a "both" type of deal when one type of comment includes an explicit "shut up".
posted by threeants at 11:29 AM on June 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I meant, why can't the act both be a genuine act of emotion, and something that was predesigned to elicit an emotional response?

Every statesman from Caesar to FDR has known how to do this. Doesn't mean they believed in what they were saying or doing any less. When an authority figure does something right, it doesn't cheapen it even if there's more than one motive involved.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:36 AM on June 27, 2015


Just finished watching the whole eulogy, which--as asserted upthread--is something every American should make time for. I myself identify as agnostic ON MY LEAST SKEPTICAL DAYS, and usually find myself super skeptical of religious talk by politicians. For reasons I can't really articulate, I've always thought of Obama as maybe a closet atheist...someone who picked a Protestant affiliation because it was expected, because a Presidential candidate can't hope to win without appealing to the large number of Christian voters that comprises both parties' bases. I've always considered Obama more of an intellectual, less of a true believer.

Watching Obama deliver this eulogy has changed my mind.

When he talks about the gift of grace, the way that we're all sinners and undeserving, and the way he draws a line from the idea of grace to the moral imperative of working harder to achieve social justice and overcome racism...I felt a conviction from him that I don't think I've ever recognized before. It's a beautiful, moving eulogy he delivered, but I felt also that Obama was speaking (and singing!) from a very personal place. I find it deeply gratifying and inspiring to see so much humanity in Obama in response to these horrific murders, even if I don't share the religious beliefs he describes. Please watch if you haven't already...it's truly cathartic.
posted by little mouth at 11:38 AM on June 27, 2015 [8 favorites]


Nice Charleston Post and Courier story about the organist who joined in once Obama started singing.
posted by dry white toast at 11:48 AM on June 27, 2015 [8 favorites]


I'm beginning to think that this guy might not be a Muslim after all.
posted by devious truculent and unreliable at 12:49 PM on June 27, 2015 [14 favorites]


It's about the dead. Who gave the eulogy at Abdulrahman al-Awlaki's funeral?

Nasser Al-Wahihsi. It was short and full of hate. He does not lead the group in song. While Rev. Clementa spent his live pursuing social justice through non-violence and reconciliation through acts of charity and love for his fellow humans; AlAwaki spent his life plotting murder and preaching hatred.
posted by humanfont at 1:10 PM on June 27, 2015 [9 favorites]


I felt a conviction from him that I don't think I've ever recognized before.

I have felt it before. As President much of what BHO has had to do has been calculated, but I also heard that conviction when he spoke in New Orleans on the campaign trail in 2008. He came to a town still reeling from the impact of Katrina, started off reminding us of our legacy of slavery, and then pulled it out with a broad review of what has made New Orleans beautiful and important. That Barack Obama is the one I voted for, and while he hasn't been seen as often as I'd like in the last six years that was him giving this eulogy.
posted by Bringer Tom at 1:12 PM on June 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


i seriously dont know how to respond to people who cant comprehend that a funeral commemorating the victims of a hate crime isnt the appropriate venue for their armchair quarterbacking. its the last ill say of it though.
posted by young_son at 1:15 PM on June 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


I've always thought of Obama as maybe a closet atheist
I think he's a believer but one with a strong respect for nonbelief, owing in large part to his bond with his mother, whose firm secular humanism he has always publicly praised.
posted by Creosote at 3:16 PM on June 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


I've always thought of Obama as maybe a closet atheist

I have too. I always imagine that when he channels 'grace' or 'god' or 'mercy' that he is using it as a metaphor for belief in the human spirit, transcendence, and the victory of good over evil. I don't think belief in the ultimate goodness of the human heart requires God, but he can't walk around saying that. If I were him, that is how I would walk that tightrope without feeling a total hypocrite--belief not necessarily in God as much as a choice to believe, despite all arguments to the contrary, in people.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:18 PM on June 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


little mouth: "I've always thought of Obama as maybe a closet atheist"

I'm not totally positive he's not -- or at least a loose Deist ... I don't know Obama's life and I don't want to tell him what he thinks, but his speeches about faith have typically been very much within the black church tradition in America where faith has been a mainstay for resisting oppression and bigotry. There are definitely members of black churches whose religious faith is mostly about the Civil Rights struggle, who view God as a metaphor for talking about the animating spirit of people who fight for civil rights. There are also those in black churches who are profoundly, profoundly Christian and view it all within the lens of a personal savior.

If I were going to guess based on all prior evidence I'd guess that Obama is not super-fussed about Jesus-as-personal-savior but that he believes in (generally Christian) God; but that here in this speech, the much more important animating factor was talking about the black church's history and struggle within America, and black church theology as it relates to abolition and civil rights. I think he was trying to situate this speech within American history much more than he was trying to situate it within Christian history.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:47 PM on June 27, 2015 [11 favorites]


The last church that President Obama was a long time member of was UCC. UCCers are not known for talking endlessly about their personal relationship with Jesus, but are absolutely known for getting stuff done to bring about the Kingdom of God on earth. There are many ways to be a Christian.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:32 AM on June 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


Ah Obama, sometimes you've made me so disappointed but then you go and make me a believer again. So comforting, so healing, so loving... right back at you, in your own words:

"What a good man."

Damn.

This will go down in oratory as one of the greatest American speeches. Your grand kids will be listening to these words in school.

But don't just watch Obama's speech ... watch the whole moving ceremony. I am humbled in the face of these people's goodness and dignity, it gives me hope. Respect.
posted by madamjujujive at 7:19 AM on June 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Not sure if anyone has posted this yet, but James Fallows of The Atlantic does a fantastic analysis of the speech here.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 9:12 AM on June 28, 2015 [8 favorites]


The way he stressed "United" there at the end. Wow.
posted by chavenet at 5:00 AM on June 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wow. How fucking low, to call a man's eulogy of a friend a marketing ploy.

Meh. Ted Cruz was cracking mean spirited jokes about Joe Biden the day after his son died. This is just a par for the GOP.

I thought it was an incredible sermon. For whatever reason, I always disliked the Christian concept of grace as I learned it and knew of it from hardcore evangelicals. I guess nobody ever explained it as well as Obama, because I came away with a profound love and respect of Christianity as I want to know it. "He didn't know he was being used by God." Wow.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:20 PM on June 29, 2015




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