“Clem understood that justice grows out of recognition of ourselves in each other.”

Clementa Carlos “Clem” Pinckney was a State Senator and Democratic member of the South Carolina Senate.

Pinckney was a senior pastor at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston. On June 17, 2015, Pinckney and eight church-goers at an evening Bible study at the church were murdered in a mass shooting.

President Obama delivered the eulogy at the memorial in honor of Reverend Pinckney. This is how it ended. (Watch the full eulogy below.)

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.

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.”

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. 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. 

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.” 

That reservoir of goodness. If we can find that grace, anything is possible. If we can tap that grace, everything can change.

The President raised his head and gazed toward the sanctuary ceiling – then slowly lowered his head and became silent. A long pause. He reached deep inside and quietly, slowly, began to sing – head slowly rising, pausing slightly – moving back and forth slightly. Church-goers, organist, choir, and church band joined him…


(President Obama Singing) 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…

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.

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. 

 – President Barak Obama, during his eulogy For Rev. Clementa Pinckney




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