The Eulogy was not merely a text, but a performance: what does it do? How does it work?
My purpose here is not to engage in the job of hunting for hidden meaning in Obama’s text, for everything is there for us to see. Rather, I only wish to call attention to the obvious and therefore to highlight patterns that may not be so obvious.
Here’s the major sections of Obama’s speech as I laid them out in my first post:
1. Prologue: Address to his audience, quoting of a passage from the Bible.2. Phase 1: Moves from the Clementa Pinckney’s life to the significance of the black church in history.3. Phase 2: The murder itself and presence of God’s grace.4. Phase 3: Looks to the nation, the role racism has played, and the need to move beyond it.5. Closing: Amazing Grace.
As before, I’ve attached a copy of Obama’s text to the end of this post, with the paragraphs numbered; you can also access an analytical table of the text HERE. You can view the complete performance HERE.
The Beginning and the End
Let’s start with the beginning, which is simple and straight forward:
1. Giving all praise and honor to God.2. The Bible calls us to hope. To persevere, and have faith in things not seen.3. “They were still living by faith when they died,” Scripture tells us. “They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on Earth.”4. We are here today to remember a man of God who lived by faith. A man who believed in things not seen. A man who believed there were better days ahead, off in the distance. A man of service who persevered, knowing full well he would not receive all those things he was promised, because he believed his efforts would deliver a better life for those who followed.5. To Jennifer, his beloved wife; to Eliana and Malana, his beautiful, wonderful daughters; to the Mother Emanuel family and the people of Charleston, the people of South Carolina.
Note that while paragraphs 2 and 3 are connected by a logical progression, as are 3 and 4. That is not the case between 1 and 2 nor between 4 and 5.
What’s going on?
Obama opens with a straightforward assertion: “Giving all praise and honor to God.” Right away he is telling us that this is not going to be an ordinary Presidential speech: Presidential speeches do not ordinarily begin that way. Moreover, while as President he is the highest authority in the land – note that he has the power to pardon people of crimes and (in practice) the power to commit the nation to war (if not in Constitutional law) – he is here acknowledging a higher power than even he possesses.
Not only is there a higher power, but there is a higher order. And that order is not visible to us. That is our (hidden) link from the first to the second paragraph, where we are enjoined to “have faith in things not seen.” That in turn takes us to the third paragraph, a Bible verse (Hebrews 11:13) telling us to have faith and that we are “strangers on Earth.”
Only then does Obama introduce Pinckney, though not by name, and he introduces him in terms he set out in paragraphs 1, 2 and 3. He is “a man of God” (1) who “lived by faith” (2 & 3). Obama picks up the theme of distance – “better days ahead, off in the distance” – and closes on perseverance. These connections, of course, are crucial, for Obama will spin out his sermon in the space between the Biblical verse – which is the key to the hidden order, the sacred order – and the now deceased man who followed its promptings.
And then, in the fifth paragraph, Obama address himself to Pinckney’s family, to the church, to the city, and to the state, but not to the nation. But there is connection explicitly asserted between paragraphs 4 and 5; there is simply juxtaposition. Paragraph 5 echoes paragraph 1 in that both are forms of address where the movement has been from addressing the Divine in the first paragraph to addressing the human in the fifth.
The larger task of the sermon is to bridge that same gap, between the Divine and the human, the sacred and the secular. The body of the sermon is a journey between the two, which we’ll look at in the next section. It is in the closing that Obama comes as close as one can to closing that gap. And he does that, not by argument, but by song. It is in the act of leading the assembled group – all 5000 of them – in that song that the gap is brought to its narrowest pitch.
Here’s the conclusion:
44. That reservoir of goodness. If we can find that grace, anything is possible. If we can tap that grace, everything can change.45. Amazing grace. Amazing grace.46. (Begins to sing) – Amazing grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost, but now I'm found; was blind but now I see.47. Clementa Pinckney found that grace.Cynthia Hurd found that grace.Susie Jackson found that grace.Ethel Lance found that grace.DePayne Middleton-Doctor found that grace.Tywanza Sanders found that grace.Daniel L. Simmons, Sr. found that grace.Sharonda Coleman-Singleton found that grace.Myra Thompson found that grace.48. Through the example of their lives, they've now passed it on to us. May we find ourselves worthy of that precious and extraordinary gift, as long as our lives endure. May grace now lead them home. May God continue to shed His grace on the United States of America.
Paragraph 44 concludes the body of the sermon and it closes on the theme of grace that Obama introduced at the mid-point and then elaborated throughout the second half. Note also that at this point Obama’s delivery is calm and low key, and the audience is quiet. There’s no hint of what is about to break loose, though if you listen carefully as Obama speaks this paragraph you can hear a little rise.
Something’s going on down there.
By my count Obama paused for about seven seconds between the final words of paragraph 44 – “everything can change” – and simply uttering “Amazing Grace” at the beginning of the close. Seven seconds. Count them out. That’s a long time in a speech that otherwise went moving along. It was another four seconds until Obama uttered “Amazing Grace” a second time.
And then he paused for fourteen seconds.
Of . complete . and . utter . silence.
What WAS he thinking? For that matter, what was the audience thinking, sitting there in silent anticipation edging perhaps into trepidation?
Michiko Kakutani reports in The New York Times that “on the way to Charleston aboard Marine One, he told his advisers that he might sing some of those lines ‘if it feels right.’” Was he, during those fourteen seconds, trying to figure out “if it feels right”? I mean, did he have any choice?
At that moment he was like the cartoon character who’s walked off a cliff and is hanging in mid-air. If Obama didn’t decide that it felt right he’d crash and burn. It HAD to feel right, for at that point singing “Amazing Grace” was the only thing he could do to keep on going.
So he did. And people joined him, as did the organist and the band. THAT’s what narrowed the gap between the Sacred and the secular, the Divine and the mortal. That’s when grace descended and filled the hall. And Obama, the Reverend President as one of the ministers remarked, was the lightening rod.
When the singing concluded Obama shouted nine times, once for each of the people slain: “Clementa Pinckney found that grace”, and so on. He then concluded, as he had begun, by invoking God: “May God continue to shed His grace on the United States of America.” In that line he also echoed “America the Beautiful,” America’s de facto national hymn.
My point is simple: It was the act of song that brought the sermon to a satisfying close, and that was not a work of logical deduction or conclusion. It was an act of performative inclusion that made the people there assembled into one body, one mind, and one spirit, if only for a moment or two.
Transport: The way up, the way down
The trajectory Obama took in the body of his performance is a simple one. To and from, up and down. He walked toward grace, received it, and returned from whence he came.
Once he’d moved through the prologue he started elaborating an ordinary eulogy, focusing on Clementa Pinckney himself in paragraphs 6 through 17. First he establishes a connection between himself and Pinckney (6), then he talks of Pinckney’s friends and family (7), his progression through life (8) and to his public service (9, 10, 11) and then, in paragraphs 12 and 13, he focuses on Pinckney’s work as a minister. In paragraph 14 he asserts that Pinckney was a good man and tells us, in paragraph 15: “You don't have to be of high station to be a good man.” He’s just like us.
That paragraph then repeats Pinckney’s life progression (introduced in 8) and adds one event to it, his death. that allows him to introduce, in paragraph 16, the names of those slain along with Pinckney. He also reiterates themes introduced in paragraphs 2 and 3: “People […] who persevered. People of great faith.”
And now, in paragraph 17, Obama introduces the nation: “the nation shares in your grief.” Recall that in the closing sentence of the Prologue (5), Obama addressed is remarks first to Pinckney’s wife then to others ending with the “people of South Carolina”, rather conspicuously omitting the nation. He thereby sets up a subtle expectation that the nation will, at some point be introduced. That has now happened in paragraph 17.
Now the eulogy shifts into a sermon on race in America. In paragraph 18 Obama moves away from Pinckney and his circle and to the role of the black church in America, as a source of sanctuary, stations in the Civil Rights Movement, and community centers. In paragraph 19 the church becomes “our beating heart” and Pinckney’s church, a very important one in South Carolina, becomes “Mother Emmanuel,” a church that was “burned to the ground” and then rose up again, “a Phoenix from these ashes”.
Talk of the church continues into paragraph 20, where Obama invokes the name of Martin Luther King, Jr., who once preached from Emmanuel. Now note well his phrasing:
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.
He begins with “this church”, that is, Emmanuel, and ends with “the church”, the (black) church in general. It is important for every American who values human dignity. Has he all but asserted that the black church is “the beating heart” (19) of America?
That concludes the first phase of Obama’s eulogy be come sermon. At this point the audience is, appropriately, at the highest pitch it’s been so far, with people standing and applauding and uttering “That’s right!” Now Obama moves into the Transition, which I discussed in my first post, Obama’s Eulogy for Clementa Pinckney 1: The Circle of Grace.
As I pointed out there, this is when and where grace becomes a major theme, and this is where Obama first mentions Dylann Storm Roof, but never by name, only as “the killer”.
Now that he has established the nation as an actor in his sermon (starting in 17) Obama can depict these murders as an attack, not on nine individuals, but on the nation (21) by virtue of the national importance of this particular church (20). This where Obama repeats the cliché that God works in mysterious ways, and this is where Obama begins to reap what he’d sewn in the Prolog (paragraphs 2 & 3), where he gives us the words of “Amazing Grace”: “I once was lost, but now I'm found; was blind but now I see” (paragraph 26).
Throughout this section (paragraphs 21 to 27) the audience is a high pitch of excitement, applauding often. And this is where, for the first time, the organist offers punctuations to Obama’s remarks. Given that, as I earlier argued, this is the structural center of the sermon, it makes sense that it is an emotional peak (think of it, if you will, as the central tent poll in a circus big top). But things cannot continue at this pitch. Obama has to allow things to settle down and shift into another mode.
And so Phase 3 begins in paragraph 28. This phase begins with the nation and then moves through it back to Pinckney (40) and through his words to an open heart (42 then 43) to pause in grace (44). Let’s see how Obama takes us there.
He begins by invoking God, the nation, grace, and blindness (28): “As a nation, out of this terrible tragedy, God has visited grace upon us, for he has allowed us to see where we've been blind.” He’s got all this themes going now and he’s explicating them in the context of the nation. He introduces the Confederate flag in 29 and the oppression it has signified to so many. He then, in paragraph 30, carefully distinguishes between the sin of slavery and the valor of the Confederate soldiers, making a distinction important in Christianity: hate the sin, but not the sinner – first penned by St. Augustine and restated centuries later by Mohandas Gandhi.
He continues with racial injustice in 31, 32, and 33, moves to guns in 34-37 and returns to grace in 38:
We don't earn grace. We're all sinners. We don't deserve it. But God gives it to us anyway. And we choose how to receive it. It's our decision how to honor it.
Notice that word “honor”, that was in the very first sentence of this eulogy/sermon: “Giving all praise and honor to God.” We must choose how we will honor God’s grace. That takes us to the next paragraph, 39, where Obama tells us it is time to move beyond “a conversation about race.” It is time for solutions, if only incomplete ones.
And now he brings us back to Rev. Pinckney (40) and of the families who’s expressed forgiveness for the killer (41) and in 42 he quotes Pinckney on the need to have “a deep appreciation of each other's history.” Though that we learn to use that history as “a roadway toward a better world” from there Obama tells as that Pinckney knew “the path of grace involves […] an open heart.”
Now Obama turns toward his closing, telling us in paragraph 43: “That's what I've felt this week – an open heart.” And then, in 44: “If we can tap that grace, everything can change.”
That concludes the body of the sermon. Obama will pause, repeat the phrase “Amazing Grace” twice, separated by pauses, and then begin to sing. We are now into the closing phase of the sermon where everybody stands and joins Obama in song – well, not everybody, but enough – and thereby activates their full participation in it. As I argued above, it is this joining together in affirmation that is the proper conclusion of Obama’s eulogy.
I suggested in my initial post that this sermon is a ring-composition or ring-form. Such texts unfold as follows:
A, B, C … X … C’, B’, A’
A’ echoes A, B’ echoes B and so forth, with X being structurally central.
I am now sure that Obama’s sermon has that form. The Closing echoes and completes the Prologue while the second phase, where grace becomes the major theme, is the structural center. The analysis and description we’ve been through above has convinced me that.
Phase 3 is the mirror of Phase 1. Phase 1 starts with Pinckney and moves through him to the black church and to the nation. Phase 3 starts with the nation and then moves back to Pinckney and through him to an affirmation of (the possibility of) changing the nation. Roughly:
A – Prologue
B – PinckneyC – NationZ – GraceC’ – NationD’ – PinckneyA’ – Close
What I think particularly interesting is that in this case we have more than a text, a document. For this text was performed, and we have a record of that performance. We know, in a general way, how that performance moved people, how it worked.
That performance tells us the ways of grace. In this context I do not mean grace as a theological concept to be examined, dissected, and debated, though Obama does touch upon and explicate the concept: it is given, not earned. But more importantly, Obama USES the concept, works with it, and gathers participation through and in it. This grace is an opening of the heart that allows a group of people to share in the spirit and become One.
If only for a moment. A moment of grace.
* * * * *
Here is the complete text, which I copied from CNN:
1.) THE PRESIDENT: Giving all praise and honor to God. (Applause.)
2.) The Bible calls us to hope. To persevere, and have faith in things not seen.
3.) "They were still living by faith when they died," Scripture tells us. "They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on Earth."
4.) We are here today to remember a man of God who lived by faith. A man who believed in things not seen. A man who believed there were better days ahead, off in the distance. A man of service who persevered, knowing full well he would not receive all those things he was promised, because he believed his efforts would deliver a better life for those who followed.
5.) To Jennifer, his beloved wife; to Eliana and Malana, his beautiful, wonderful daughters; to the Mother Emanuel family and the people of Charleston, the people of South Carolina.
6.) I cannot claim to have the good fortune to know Reverend Pinckney well. But I did have the pleasure of knowing him and meeting him here in South Carolina, back when we were both a little bit younger. (Laughter.) Back when I didn't have visible grey hair. (Laughter.) The first thing I noticed was his graciousness, his smile, his reassuring baritone, his deceptive sense of humor – all qualities that helped him wear so effortlessly a heavy burden of expectation.
7.) Friends of his remarked this week that when Clementa Pinckney entered a room, it was like the future arrived; that even from a young age, folks knew he was special. Anointed. He was the progeny of a long line of the faithful – a family of preachers who spread God's word, a family of protesters who sowed change to expand voting rights and desegregate the South. Clem heard their instruction, and he did not forsake their teaching.
8.) He was in the pulpit by 13, pastor by 18, public servant by 23. He did not exhibit any of the cockiness of youth, nor youth's insecurities; instead, he set an example worthy of his position, wise beyond his years, in his speech, in his conduct, in his love, faith, and purity.
9.) As a senator, he represented a sprawling swath of the Lowcountry, a place that has long been one of the most neglected in America. A place still wracked by poverty and inadequate schools; a place where children can still go hungry and the sick can go without treatment. A place that needed somebody like Clem. (Applause.)
10.) His position in the minority party meant the odds of winning more resources for his constituents were often long. His calls for greater equity were too often unheeded, the votes he cast were sometimes lonely. But he never gave up. He stayed true to his convictions. He would not grow discouraged. After a full day at the capitol, he'd climb into his car and head to the church to draw sustenance from his family, from his ministry, from the community that loved and needed him. There he would fortify his faith, and imagine what might be.
11.) Reverend Pinckney embodied a politics that was neither mean, nor small. He conducted himself quietly, and kindly, and diligently. He encouraged progress not by pushing his ideas alone, but by seeking out your ideas, partnering with you to make things happen. He was full of empathy and fellow feeling, able to walk in somebody else's shoes and see through their eyes. No wonder one of his senate colleagues remembered Senator Pinckney as "the most gentle of the 46 of us – the best of the 46 of us."
12.) Clem was often asked why he chose to be a pastor and a public servant. But the person who asked probably didn't know the history of the AME church. (Applause.) As our brothers and sisters in the AME church know, we don't make those distinctions. "Our calling," Clem once said, "is not just within the walls of the congregation, but...the life and community in which our congregation resides." (Applause.)
13.) 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 – (applause) – that to put our faith in action is more than individual salvation, it's about our collective salvation; that to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and house the homeless is not just a call for isolated charity but the imperative of a just society.
14.) What a good man. Sometimes I think that's the best thing to hope for when you're eulogized – after all the words and recitations and resumes are read, to just say someone was a good man. (Applause.)
15.) You don't have to be of high station to be a good man. Preacher by 13. Pastor by 18. Public servant by 23. What a life Clementa Pinckney lived. What an example he set. What a model for his faith. And then to lose him at 41 – slain in his sanctuary with eight wonderful members of his flock, each at different stages in life but bound together by a common commitment to God.
16.) Cynthia Hurd. Susie Jackson. Ethel Lance. DePayne Middleton-Doctor. Tywanza Sanders. Daniel L. Simmons. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton. Myra Thompson. Good people. Decent people. God-fearing people. (Applause.) People so full of life and so full of kindness. People who ran the race, who persevered. People of great faith.
17.) To the families of the fallen, the nation shares in your grief. Our pain cuts that much deeper because it happened in a church. The church is and always has been the center of African-American life – (applause) – a place to call our own in a too often hostile world, a sanctuary from so many hardships.
18.) 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 – (applause) – 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; places where children are loved and fed and kept out of harm's way, and told that they are beautiful and smart – (applause) – and taught that they matter. (Applause.) That's what happens in church.
19.) That's what the black church means. Our beating heart. The place where our dignity as a people is inviolate. When there's no better example of this tradition than Mother Emanuel – (applause) – a church built by blacks seeking liberty, burned to the ground because its founder sought to end slavery, only to rise up again, a Phoenix from these ashes. (Applause.)
20.) When there were laws banning all-black church gatherings, 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 – (applause) – of human rights and human dignity in this country; a foundation stone for liberty and justice for all. That's what the church meant. (Applause.)
21.) 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. (Applause.) 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.
22.) Oh, but God works in mysterious ways. (Applause.) God has different ideas. (Applause.)
23.) He didn't know he was being used by God. (Applause.) 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. (Applause.)
24.) The alleged killer could not imagine how the city of Charleston, under the good and wise leadership of Mayor Riley – (applause) – how the state of South Carolina, how the United States of America would respond – not merely with revulsion at his evil act, but with big-hearted generosity and, more importantly, with a thoughtful introspection and self-examination that we so rarely see in public life.
25.) Blinded by hatred, he failed to comprehend what Reverend Pinckney so well understood – the power of God's grace. (Applause.)
26.) This whole week, I've been reflecting on this idea of grace. (Applause.) The grace of the families who lost loved ones. The grace that Reverend Pinckney would preach about in his sermons. The grace described in one of my favorite hymnals – the one we all know: Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. (Applause.) I once was lost, but now I'm found; was blind but now I see. (Applause.)
27.) According to the Christian tradition, grace is not earned. Grace is not merited. It's not something we deserve. Rather, grace is the free and benevolent favor of God – (applause) – as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. Grace.
28.) As a nation, out of this terrible tragedy, God has visited grace upon us, for he has allowed us to see where we've been blind. (Applause.) He has given us the chance, where we've been lost, to find our best selves. (Applause.) We may not have earned it, this grace, with our rancor and complacency, and short-sightedness and fear of each other – but we got it all the same. He gave it to us anyway. He's once more given us grace. But it is up to us now to make the most of it, to receive it with gratitude, and to prove ourselves worthy of this gift.
29.) For too long, we were blind to the pain that the Confederate flag stirred in too many of our citizens. (Applause.) 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 – (applause) – as we all have to acknowledge, the flag has always represented more than just ancestral pride. (Applause.) For many, black and white, that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation. We see that now.
30.) 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 – (applause) – the imposition of Jim Crow after the Civil War, the resistance to civil rights for all people was wrong. (Applause.) 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. (Applause.)
31.) But I don't think God wants us to stop there. (Applause.) For too long, 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. (Applause.)
32.) Perhaps it causes us to examine what we're doing to cause some of our children to hate. (Applause.) Perhaps it softens hearts towards those lost young men, tens and tens of thousands caught up in the criminal justice system – (applause) – and leads us to make sure that that system is not infected with bias; that we embrace changes in how we train and equip our police so that the bonds of trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve make us all safer and more secure. (Applause.)
33.) Maybe we now realize the way racial bias can infect us even when we don't realize it, 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. (Applause.) So that we search our hearts when we consider laws to make it harder for some of our fellow citizens to vote. (Applause.) By recognizing our common humanity by treating every child as important, regardless of the color of their skin or the station into which they were born, and to do what's necessary to make opportunity real for every American – by doing that, we express God's grace. (Applause.)
34.) For too long –
35.) AUDIENCE: For too long!
36.) THE PRESIDENT: For too long, we've been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts upon this nation. (Applause.) Sporadically, our eyes are open: When eight of our brothers and sisters are cut down in a church basement, 12 in a movie theater, 26 in an elementary school. But I hope we also see the 30 precious lives cut short by gun violence in this country every single day; the countless more whose lives are forever changed – the survivors crippled, the children traumatized and fearful every day as they walk to school, the husband who will never feel his wife's warm touch, the entire communities whose grief overflows every time they have to watch what happened to them happen to some other place.
37.) The vast majority of Americans – the majority of gun owners – want to do something about this. We see that now. (Applause.) And I'm convinced that by acknowledging the pain and loss of others, even as we respect the traditions and ways of life that make up this beloved country – by making the moral choice to change, we express God's grace. (Applause.)
38.) We don't earn grace. We're all sinners. We don't deserve it. (Applause.) But God gives it to us anyway. (Applause.) And we choose how to receive it. It's our decision how to honor it.
39.) None of us can or should expect a transformation in race relations overnight. Every time something like this happens, somebody says we have to have a conversation about race. We talk a lot about race. There's no shortcut. And we don't need more talk. (Applause.) None of us should believe that a handful of gun safety measures will prevent every tragedy. It will not. People of goodwill will continue to debate the merits of various policies, as our democracy requires – this is a big, raucous place, America is. And there are good people on both sides of these debates. Whatever solutions we find will necessarily be incomplete.
40.) But it would be a betrayal of everything Reverend Pinckney stood for, I believe, if we allowed ourselves to slip into a comfortable silence again. (Applause.) Once the eulogies have been delivered, once the TV cameras move on, to go back to business as usual – that's what we so often 40.) do to avoid uncomfortable truths about the prejudice that still infects our society. (Applause.) To settle for symbolic gestures without following up with the hard work of more lasting change – that's how we lose our way again.
41.) It would be a refutation of the forgiveness expressed by those families if we merely slipped into old habits, whereby those who disagree with us are not merely wrong but bad; where we shout instead of listen; where we barricade ourselves behind preconceived notions or well-practiced cynicism.
42.) Reverend Pinckney once said, "Across the South, we have a deep appreciation of history – we haven't always had a deep appreciation of each other's history." (Applause.) What is true in the South is true for America. Clem understood that justice grows out of recognition of ourselves in each other. That my liberty depends on you being free, too. (Applause.) That history can't be a sword to justify injustice, or a shield against progress, but 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.
43.) That's what I've felt this week – an open heart. That, more than any particular policy or analysis, is what's called upon right now, I think – 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."
44.) That reservoir of goodness. If we can find that grace, anything is possible. (Applause.) If we can tap that grace, everything can change. (Applause.)
45.) Amazing grace. Amazing grace.
46.) (Begins to sing) – Amazing grace – (applause) – how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost, but now I'm found; was blind but now I see. (Applause.)
47.) Clementa Pinckney found that grace.
Cynthia Hurd found that grace.
Susie Jackson found that grace.
Ethel Lance found that grace.
DePayne Middleton-Doctor found that grace.
Tywanza Sanders found that grace.
Daniel L. Simmons, Sr. found that grace.
Sharonda Coleman-Singleton found that grace.
Myra Thompson found that grace.
48.) Through the example of their lives, they've now passed it on to us. May we find ourselves worthy of that precious and extraordinary gift, as long as our lives endure. May grace now lead them home. May God continue to shed His grace on the United States of America. (Applause.)