Barack Obama delivers searing speech on US race relations at slain pastor’s funeral: ‘Amazing Grace’

Barack Obama delivers searing speech on US race relations at slain pastor’s funeral: ‘Amazing Grace’
President describes Confederate flag as a “reminder of systemic oppression and racist subjugation”.

Agence France-Presse in New York

US President Barack Obama on Friday delivered a rousing eulogy for a black pastor slain in the Charleston massacre, addressing the strains in America over race and gun control before bursting into a soulful hymn.

Dubbed the “reverend president” by his South Carolina hosts, Obama led thousands of mourners in singing Amazing Grace – an emotive homage likely to be remembered as one of the defining moments in his presidency.

Clementa Pinckney, pastor at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and also a state senator, was shot dead along with eight of his congregants in Charleston last week, an apparently racially motivated attack that shocked the nation.

“What a good man,” Obama said, praising Pinckney, who he knew personally. “Sometimes I think that’s the best thing to hope for when you’re eulogised.”

Much of Obama’s address was focused not directly on Pinckney, but on social strains that his death has underscored: race, gun control and the country’s Civil War.

America’s first black president said the Confederate flag – the Civil War standard of the white slave-owning south that was taken up by alleged gunman Dylann Roof – was not just an emblem of heritage.

“For too long, we were blind to the pain that the Confederate flag stirred in too many of our citizens,” Obama said in charged and combative remarks.

“The flag has always represented more than just ancestral pride. For many, black and white, that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression and racist subjugation. We see that now.”

Removing the flag from public buildings, he said, would not be an act of political correctness or an “insult to the valour of Confederate soldiers.”

“It would simply be an acknowledgment that the cause for which they fought, the cause of slavery was wrong,” he said. “It would be one step in an honest accounting of American history.”

Obama drew a line between the June 17 shooting at a Bible study class at the Emanuel AME Church and past brutal treatment of black Americans.

“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,” he said.

Roof, 21, has been charged with nine counts of murder and a related weapons charge. He is in custody in a South Carolina jail.

Obama said America had ignored the toll of gun violence for too long and again pleaded for action, as he has done several times since the killings.

“We’ve been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts upon this nation,” he said. “The vast majority of Americans, the majority of gun owners, want to do something about this.”

Obama referred to other mass shootings that have shocked America – the Newtown school massacre in 2012, the killings in a Colorado movie theater earlier that same year.

“Whatever solutions we find will necessarily be incomplete. 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,” he said.

Obama, having seen previous initiatives to control gun ownership fail in Congress, has expressed anger and declared that “at some point” America would have to act.

The city of Charleston has tried to come together after the killings. Some mourners arrived in the early hours under a blistering summer sun, forming long lines at a city arena and anxious to secure seats for Friday’s service.

“We need to come together,” said 66-year-old Rose Marie Manigault, who made the short trip from Mount Pleasant to pick her spot just before dawn broke over the gathering throng.

Before Obama’s eulogy, church Bishop John Richard Bryant told mourners, eliciting cheers, that Roof “wanted to start a race war but he came to the wrong place”.

Along with Obama and his wife Michelle, Vice-President Joe Biden, Republican House Speaker John Boehner and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton attended Friday’s service.

Pinckney’s widow Jennifer and his daughter Malana wrote messages of remembrance in the programme.

“We believe that your life mattered. It mattered to us, and it will forever change the culture and mindset of the world,” said his wife.

“I love you so much!” wrote Malana.

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 June, 2015, 11:23am
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 June, 2015, 11:23am

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Robert Chaen

Global CEO-Founder of ChangeU and Movsha Movers & Shakers, Hero-CEO Whisperer, Writer, The #1 Alpha Change Expert, Father of Asian FireWalking Robert Chaen is an International Keynote Speaker, writer, researcher, and corp games designer. He is famously known to be the “Hero-CEO Whisperer”, 1-on1 coaching with many CEOs and Celebrities for corporate strategies, staff & office political issues, personal branding, and even public figure OSHA safety drilling called Drager Defense. He has transformed CEOs and managers in Coca-Cola China, TVB Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Airport Services, VADS, TM, Public Bank, Auditor General's Office Maldives, etc. He is the prolific creator and online Author of innovative management tools such as DragonCEO, Diamond Leader, Papillon Personal Effectiveness, OSHA Drager Defense, KPI Bank, etc. He is also the Founder of Movsha, an international networking with monthly mingles with MOVers & SHAkers, Angels, Entrepreneurs, CEOs, Celebrities, HR-PR-CSR, HODs, and the Most Influential IDEA people. ​Chaen is widely considered as one of the top International Platform Keynote Speakers for Resorts World Genting Senior Management Conference (Manila), 7-Eleven HK, Samsung, Coca-Cola China Mini-MBA @Tsing Hua University, Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Jockey Club, The Story Conference where he interviewed Datuk Kamarudin (Chairman of AirAsia) and Siti Nurhaliza. He has been widely featured in TVB, AWSJ, CNBC, SCMP, The Star, and Sin Chew. As “The Father of Asian FireWalking”, he coached TVB celebrities (Ekin Cheng Yee-Kin) to walk on 650°C fire; and raised HK$68M in the world’s 1st and only live TV Charity FireWalk (TVB Tung Wah Charity Show), before Tony Robbins even came to Asia. If Robert can get you to walk on 650⁰C fire, he can inspire you to be THE BEST. He champions CN-HK-EU-US Tycoons to be philanthropic, and to be angel investors to support the next generation of Jack Mas, Steve Jobs, Richard Bransons, Steven Spielbergs, or Barrack Obamas. With some slick motivational speakers with fake doctorates out there, graduates often describe Robert to be "the most credible, empowering, truthful Coach" who believe in his graduates to believe in themselves. ​However, clients have described Robert as "The #1 Cool Badass Alpha Change Expert". He has the coolest first class stature, rapport and trust from clients. He will not hesitate to tell the badass truth ever so gently because clients are paying him big bucks to reveal the truth, find solutions, persuade the hostile HODs, and align cross-teams within the organization. Originally based in Hong Kong for 20+ years, he had worked with top Branding/Ad agencies at J Walter Thompson and Leo Burnett, and was a certified FranklinCovey (7 Habits) in USA, and NLP MasterCoach (USA). His warmth is known to soften the most hardened, resistant sceptics. He will inspire your team to Go for Top 1, or to be a Dragon CEO. With boundless energies, Robert owns 15+ successful business Joint-Ventures, and created unique products under his global VC network called Chaen's Angels VC. He is deeply passionate about ChangeUTH Youth CSR, Science-Based Medicine (vs. quackery), short films and Reality TV. Touched by a personal tragedy through the loss of his HK-born Portuguese wife, co-coach and business partner, Brenda José of 18 years, Robert explores the many ways in which the spirit world is communicating with the living with real scientific studies and evidence. He gives inspiring conferences on The Secret Afterlife.

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