President Obama wowed the nation in more ways than one on Friday, June 26, when he burst into song during an emotional eulogy for the late Rev. Clementa Pinckney in Charleston, S.C.
Obama, who stood somberly in front of more than 5,000 congregants and dozens of TV cameras, paused during his speech before breaking out into the opening lines of “Amazing Grace.”
In the video, the attendants, initially stunned by Obama’s singing, soon joined in as they collectively remembered Pinckney and the other eight victims who were gunned down last week at Emanuel AME Church: Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel L. Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, and Myra Thompson.
“For too long we have been blind to the ways past injustices continue to shape the present,” Obama said prior to singing the hymn. “Perhaps we see that now.”
The President also addressed the racial motivations behind the shooting, pointing to the Confederate flag as a “reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation.”
Earlier in the day, Obama celebrated a “victory for America” when the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples are permitted to marry in all 50 states.
“Our nation was founded on a bedrock principle — that we are all created equal,” Obama said of the 5-4 decision at the White House Rose Garden, adding that equality “comes in small increments. Sometimes two steps forward, one step back.”
“When all Americans are treated as equal, we are all more free,” he continued. “Americans of good will continue to hold a wide range of views on this issue. …For all our differences, we are one people — stronger together than we will ever be alone. That has always been our story.”